Reasons you should watch...
recommends films in the genre of 'law'. This week it's Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird
, starring Gregory Peck (and a freakily-young Robert Duvall).
Most people only know To Kill A Mockingbird
because they were forced to read it for their English GCSE. If you're one of them, it means the words To Kill A Mockingbird
immediately make you tired. Since school you may have only deliberately remembered it
once, when you were trying to impress a date and mentioned it to look well-read, only your date had also
read it at school, and called you out on it, and so To Kill A Mockingbird
became a shameful, as well as a boring, memory.
What I'm trying to say is, it's going to be difficult to convince you to watch this one.
||"And don't forget, it's in black and white!"
The thing is, it's not the film you think it is. Because:
1. Atticus Fitch is actually a terrible lawyer
begins with what feels like nine hours of Atticus Finch's children playing in a dusty street in 1930s Alabama. While riveting, the story kicks up a gear when they start spying on their father, who has just taken on a controversial case defending a black man who is accused of raping a white woman in their deeply-divided community.
Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch, resplendent in his white suit, is held up
as the ideal attorney, an ethical titan. Except he's a horrible lawyer. He really bungles it. The whole case. Even before the trial he's mucking it up, when he almost gets his black client lynched by his racist client. The mob only disperses because Finch's daughter, Scout, intervenes and tells everyone that the racist client pays her dad in nuts. Finch then lets the wrongly-accused man make some very unwise comments on the stand which leads to his (spoiler alert) conviction. And then the poor sod gets shot dead on the way to prison.
2. A child gets dressed up as a ham
||"Did he say I could pay him in nuts? I've got a bad feeling about this."
Woven into this grim tale of racism, murder, incompetence and nut-based billing is a very funny interlude in which the precocious young Scout gets stuck in a ham costume.
||Dave's eyes lit up when she appeared in her Prom dress.
As a giant papier-mâché ham, she has some difficulty walking through a forest, and when a violent drunk gives chase she runs straight into a tree.
3. It was the inspiration for The 'Burbs
No-one is forced to study The 'Burbs
for their GCSEs, but in many ways the 1989 comedy is a superior remake of TKAM
three child actors who no one's heard of spy on their reclusive neighbour. In The
it's Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern and Corey Feldman.
, the neighbour turns out to be a good guy who saves the children. In The 'Burbs
, the neighbour turns out to be a murderer who collects his victims' skulls.
, the climax is a ham falling over, and then the characters discuss what they've learnt. In The 'Burbs
, the climax is Hanks fighting a killer in an ambulance which crashes into a house, and the characters learn nothing.
The 'Burbs: The film To Kill A Mockingbird could have been.
4. Harper Lee needs the money
Actually, she doesn't. TKAM
makes her $9,000 in royalties a day
. Your annotated copy was just another drop of unicorn milk in her morning smoothie.
5. Atticus Finch can teach dreadful lawyers to be a success
Finch may only avoid the ignominy of seeing his innocent client executed because they get shot first, but what he can do is make awful advice sound great. His words are a masterclass in spin. Client wondering whether to pursue a costly, doomed course of action? Tell them courage is "when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what
". Ch-ching. Leave your kids unsupervised and they get attacked by a madman? Explain that "there are a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep 'em all away from you. That's never possible.
” Atticus Finch: never has incompetence been so eloquent.
For less despicable lawyers, check out alcoholic Paul Newman in 5 reasons to watch The Verdict
, contrary Henry Fonda in 3 reasons to watch 12 Angry Men
, and gamblin' Matt Damon in 3 reasons to watch Rounders
.... read more