"A movie about a good hearted lawyer. Yeah, right."
Another Grisham adaptation.This was the second of John Grisham's novels to be made into a feature, the first being The Firm. It had quite a bit going for it.
Whereas The Firm had Tom Cruise, The Pelican Brief had Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington. While The Firm had Sydney Pollack as director, The Pelican Brief had Alan J. Pakula. Both had built-in audiences from the book.
But the problem with The Pelican Brief mirrors the problem with every Grisham adaptation that sees the light of day. The hero is always an idealistic lawyer (usually young, with the exception of The Client) who either beats the system or triumphs over some form of legal evil. Grisham's a one-note author, and each of his books (and therefore the filmed adaptations of those books) have a certain stale, "we've seen this before" feel to them.
The Pelican Brief works on the strength of its actors. Roberts is a young law student who has discovered a secret involving the assassination of two Supreme Court justices. She's on the run. Washington is the investigative reporter that Roberts turns to to get the story out and insure her safety. Both the leads are perfect in their roles: Roberts recaptures the sort of warmth that she's been missing in her other roles, and Washington proves he's an actor's actor, he's entirely credible as the reporter. The two have great chemistry together, but not romantic chemistry, which is fine, because this is a film that doesn't need that sort of thing.
Director Pakula has done political thrilers before (All The President's Men) and does a fine job here. He makes the story on screen far more intriguing than it is on the page.As Grisham adaptations go, this is actually pretty good.