Overview: A retelling of the 1991 controversial scandal of Judge Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court nomination and the subsequent hearing that resulted from Professor Anita Hill’s sexual harassment accusations. HBO Films; 2016; 110 minutes.
Confirmed and Condemned: During an election year where a Supreme Court seat lies vacant and waiting, Americans are reminded of the weight of this lifetime appointment and the importance of the process and the selection of those who fill those seats. Confirmation pragmatically provides the details of an example where the decision to appoint someone to preside over the highest court in the land leads to an examination of political influence, morality, and race. Although this film spends the majority of its focus on Anita Hill and her reluctant attempt to have her story heard, it does not translate as biased, but rather intent on allowing the viewer to gain insight into her character. Clarence Thomas is not vilified nor victimized either, but simply present to provide a glance at the judge’s reactive stance and ultimately racially fueled combative defense strategy.
Patience with Purpose: Those who are seeking grandeur and excitement will be greeted instead with patience and verbosity. Confirmation isn’t a documentary, so there is no doubt that creative liberties were taken, but Director Rick Famuyiwa chooses a direct approach over a dramatic one. In an interview with NPR, Kerry Washington stated that every word spoken during the scenes depicting the hearing were taken verbatim from the actual event, so it’s admirable that the creators of this film preferred accuracy rather than auspicious storytelling.
Snapshots of Time: One of the most visually interesting and historically intriguing methods this film utilizes is actual footage from the coverage of these events. The role of President Bush is not cast, but rather depicted through news clips and interviews along with reporter reactions that are embedded seamlessly into the film, made to watch like they’re occurring in real time during the film. These details tend to date the entire movie, but in a way enforces authenticity rather than mediocrity. Viewers are transported back to 1991 and prevented from forgetting that these moments were real, and the past wasn’t that long ago.
Battle Scars: The cast of Confirmation is solid all around, but it’s led by a particularly outstanding performance by Kerry Washington as Anita Hill. Her portrayal of the professor from the University of Oklahoma is a reflection of the woman’s reluctance to pursue these accusations and of the dignity that can slowly diminish when surrounded by people who refuse to believe something that doesn’t serve their own needs. Washington practices commendable restraint by beautifully balancing Hill’s timid yet confident demeanor as she battles speculation and skepticism every step of the way, fighting a surreptitious war that can’t be won.
Featured Image: HBO