Last night, HBO premiered their highly anticipated film, Phil Spector, chronicling the infamous music producer’s 2003 murder trial.
Academy Award winner Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman) plays the tainted title character who seeks counsel from a sickly, hardball lawyer, Linda Kenney Baden, played by fellow Oscar winner, Helen Mirren (The Queen).
The film opens on Linda Baden being summoned into the law office of Bruce Cutler, played by Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development) to take on Spector’s case. She doesn’t take keenly to the idea, writing him off as guilty from the start.
“They let OJ go, they let Michael Jackson go, they will not let him go!” she says, trying to be realistic.
However, her attitude towards her client begins to change when she visits his grand estate, guarded by a metal fence and barbed wire. Time and time again, she questions why “the minotaur lives in a cave,” and comes to conclude his innocence.
She does everything in her power to prep him for the opening statements of the trial and soon their relationship develops to a very caring, but platonic friendship.
Director and screenwriter David Mamet may or may not have meant to stir up the controversy that has accompanied this film.
HBO opened the television movie with the following message:
“This is a work of fiction. It’s not ‘based on a true story.’ It is a drama inspired by actual persons in a trial, but it is neither an attempt to depict the actual persons, nor to comment upon the trial.”
After watching the film, it is clear that Mamet does not intend to rewrite the verdict, but he certainly does sympathize with Spector, who is able to convince the once narrow-minded Baden.
During their mock trial session before he appears before a jury, Pacino delivers a powerful monologue where he declares, “They kill men for telling the truth. This is the truth!” This causes Baden to finally reconsider her client’s guilt.
That being said, the film closes on Baden on the night after the trials opening, as she is terrified to know that he is an innocent man and that the odds are not in his favor.
Pacino and Mirren both give Emmy-worthy performances in this HBO television movie, which will surely be widely nominated, come September.