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RELEASED: 1988, Cert.18
RUNNING TIME: 111 mins
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Kaplan
PRODUCERS: Stanley R Jaffe, Sherry Lansing
SCREENWRITER: Tom Topor
MUSICAL SCORE: Brad Fiedel
MAIN CAST LIST:-
Sarah Tobias (Jodie Foster)
Kathryn Murphy (Kelly McGillis)
Bernie Coulson (Kenneth Joyce)
In early 1989, a friend and I took ourselves off to the cinema to see The Accused. We had read that the film dealt with rape as its subject matter, but weren't quite sure how it would be presented, or really what to expect at all. My friend was a little nervous - incidentally this friend happens to be male - as when much younger, he was a victim of a gang rape....something which has deeply scarred his psychology forever. He said that he felt repulsed by the idea of going to see a film on this particular topic, yet at the same time strangely drawn to it from the point of view of hopefully being able to empathise with the victim in the film. He also felt that to be taken close to his demons may assist with the rape-related therapy he was undergoing at the time.
After a certain point in the film I was left alone in the cinema, it all having been too much for my friend to cope with....I'll say a more about that much further down.
The Accused opens with a screaming Sarah Tobias, fleeing half-dressed from a roadhouse bar. She flags down a truck....the driver stops, and presumably takes her to a hospital, where she is examined by the medical staff, and interviewed by a rape crisis counsellor.
When lawyer Kathryn Murphy is assigned to Sarah's case, she goes down the route of plea-bargaining (after having been pressed into it by her male colleagues), thus Sarah's rapists - three of them - received a much more lenient sentence than they deserved.
Naturally, Sarah is very upset...not to mention furious...and after letting her feelings of betrayal be known loud and clear, an ashamed Kathryn re-opens the case and takes it down a different route, whereby she attempts to prosecute the onlookers of the rape for allowing and encouraging it to happen, assuring Sarah that if they win, the previous verdict would automatically be overturned, the three rapists then receiving the full prison sentence for their crime.
The Accused is a very taught, tense and realistic courtroom drama that apparently is loosely based on a true story. It is said that various actresses were offered the part of Kathryn Murphy, but eventually Kelly McGillis was chosen and badly wanted the role, as it was something close to her heart, she having been a rape victim herself some years earlier.
For me, this is one of those films whereby although I can't say it's enjoyable to watch, it had me hooked from the very first frame.
I feel that Jodi Foster was superb in the role of Sarah Tobias, a young woman who perhaps on the surface comes across a bit of a hard-nut, but is vulnerable and insecure not too far underneath. Jodi Foster as Sarah, skilfully projects the fear, desperation and anger of a battered and bruised rape victim, accompanied by an equally superb performance from Kelly McGillis as the professional lawyer who is noble enough to admit she's made a mistake and tries to correct it. Both actresses craft a fine line with their characters of gradually getting closer to one another and forming a strange kind of bond, yet simultaneously realising that a professional distance must be kept between them at all times.
As far as the whole production team is concerned, I feel that they paid great attention to accurate detail, especially the portrayal of the bar-room scenes. When we do get to see the actual rape within the film, I feel that the way it gradually built up was superb....a young girl who's a little drunk and flirtatious, finding herself out of her depth when the guy she's dancing with won't take no for an answer, then being held down on top of a pinball machine and savagely assaulted by three men - with the rest of the crowd clapping, cheering and egging the rapists on.
I'm not sure how much praise he received at the time, but I feel that Bernie Coulson as Kenneth Joyce deserves more than just a mention - he was the one guy in the crowd who, although he initially stood and watched along with the others, soon realised that what had started out as no more than a bit of flirting, quickly turned into a situation whereby a young woman was being held down and sexually violated against her will. Later in the film, Kenneth was reluctant to come forward with evidence, as that meant he'd be testifying against his friends....watch the film to see if he changed his mind or not. For me, the good part about the way Bernie acted the role of Kenneth Joyce who was knee-deep in trying to cope with a moral dilemma, was the expressions he pulled on his face when challenged by Sarah's lawyer.
As far as the message and moral of the film is concerned, what struck me more than anything, was that the men involved (not just the rapists, but the onlookers and the opposition's attorneys in court too) just didn't seem to grasp the concept that what had happened was very wrong. In court, Sarah was grilled to pieces regarding the clothes she had been wearing on the night of the rape, how much she'd had to drink and why hadn't she screamed for help? The fact that there were huge male hands covering her mouth didn't seem to be an issue for those accusing.
Looking at it as if real life rather than a film for the moment, my own and possibly controversial view, is that yes, I feel Sarah was initially sending out the wrong messages, probably giving the impression that she would be free with her favours....not just by how she was dressed (which was very provocatively), but how she was behaving.
However, I now firmly plant my feet on the other side where I remain, in that although Sarah may have been teasing somewhat, when she realised things were going beyond the point she wanted to stop at, she did protest and say NO, loud and clear. The group of men was obviously of the type who either misunderstand the use of the word NO when it comes to sex, or feel that a woman somehow owes it to them to deliver the goods. Sarah was all for some flirtation and possibly, under different circumstances and with just one of the men, willing to take things further, but what she didn't anticipate and voiced her protestations against, was to be overpowered, controlled, dominated and brutally raped! As far as I'm concerned, Sarah made a mistake which she tried to retract from, and her pleas for the first man to stop were deliberately ignored. Though behaving provocatively in the first instance, I don't feel that Sarah in any way was asking to be raped - she may have happily agreed to a bit of fun with the man she was flirting with, say after the bar closed in the back of his car, but in no way did she ask to be violated in such an unforgivable fashion - nor did she deserve to be emotionally torn to pieces in the courtroom in the way she was.
Right from the outset, The Accused illustrates how badly some female rape victims are treated. I feel that Sarah was very insensitively dealt with by both hospital staff and rape crisis counsellor close to the beginning of the film - she was taken seriously by them, but I feel their attitude towards her was cold and officious, rather than sympathetic.
We have had some cases (in the UK) in recent years whereby women have, for reasons unknown to me, falsely cried 'rape' - I feel they should watch the The Accused so that amongst other things, they can be shown how harrowing a true case of rape is, and that to 'cry wolf' shows a blatant and callous disrespect for the plight of genuine victims.
We must also remember that women aren't the only victims of rape, as I briefly mentioned above regarding my male friend who accompanied me at the cinema to see The Accused. He was able to stay put until the part of the film where the actual rape is shown. As the rape scene progressed, I could feel him tensing up next to me, and when he could take it no more, he said he had to leave, asking me not to follow him as he wanted to be alone for a while. It took him a few weeks to recover from having his own experience of rape slammed into so acutely and be able to talk to his therapist about it.
That's how realistic The Accused is!
It ought to be said that my friend never did report his rape, as he felt that because of being male, he'd not be believed, and remains unreported to this day!
If you have a strong constitution, The Accused comes highly recommended by me. It is a true eye-opener and is superbly acted, directed and produced, with a definite focus on very hard-hitting realism.
I would advise extreme caution regarding anyone who has themselves been raped if contemplating viewing this film and only dip your toe into this very deep water if you are 100% certain you can cope with what is contained therein. I have never been a victim of any kind of sexual abuse, yet I personally found the rape scene extremely disturbing.
Jodie Foster secured what is in my opinion a very well-deserved Best Actress Academy Award for her powerful performance in this film. I'm not sure if Kelly McGillis had any kind of concrete recognition in the way of awards, but if she didn't, I truly feel she deserved it - possibly an award for Best Supporting Actress. If anyone out there knows more than I do and can tell me she did receive such an award, then I apologise for my ignorance.
The Accused can currently be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
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Thanks for reading, and I affirm my earlier warning that this film is intensely powerful, realistic, shocking, and for some people it could be a 'no-no'.
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Starring Jodie Foster and Kelly McGillis, The Accused was made in 1988 and it's Jodie Foster's most famous film, the one that got her the most acclaim and in fact won her an Oscar. It's one of the most enduring films of the eighties and one that still has major impact when watched now.
The movie starts by showing a bar called The Mill, in a town called Birchfield. The scene is shot in daytime, with quite haunting music playing. The scene changes to become night and the music becomes more menacing. A man runs past the camera and as a woman then runs past, he's shown calling the police to report a rape.
The rape in question occurs in The Mill, where Sarah Tobias (played by Jodie Foster) is gang-raped by three men, with a roomful of other men cheering them on. She manages to escape and flags down a man in a car, who takes her to the hospital. Kathryn Murphy (played by Kelly McGillis) is the lawyer assigned by the state to prosecute the rapists. Kathryn, along with a police officer, takes Sarah back to the bar to identify her attackers, then have them charged with the crime of rape.
The lawyers who represent the three rapists are convinced that they're going to be let off, as is Kathryn, although she is convinced that they all three are guilty. When they get charged with a lesser crime, Kathryn feels that she's let Sarah down and when one of the men watching comes onto Sarah in a record shop, then recognises her and goads her, she decides that Sarah has suffered enough and goes after the men who were watching and cheering the rapists on, to bring them to justice.
I think that this is still one of the most moving films of the last few decades. It's filmed very well and, if you can look past the fact that it was released in the eighties (without the technological advances that have occurred since in film-making), then it's definitely worth a watch. The rape scene which is shown towards the end of the film is particularly emotive, especially against the backdrop of the reactions of the people in the town. I don't think that anyone, no matter how cold-hearted and cynical, could walk away from having watched this film thinking that a woman 'deserves' to be raped.
Despite the obvious issues in this film, some things still amused me. The clothes, for a start: paisley shirts, mullets, shoulder pads and tie-dye suits (in court!) with a hanky sewn into the top pocket - and that's just the women! And cassettes in the record shop - who remembers those?
There is also the fact that when Jodie Foster hacks off all her hair, she looks as though she's just borrowed Ferris Beuller's mum's wig. And when Kelly McGillis tries to look all serious, she looks just like Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when he's upset at Rocky and says, 'Ohhhhhh, Rocky!'. I spotted this about half an hour into the film and I could not get that image out of my head.
Getting back to the serious side, this film is still great and if you get chance, watch it. It's not a family film though and isn't for people who might have an aversion to the 'difficult' scenes in this film. Heartily recommended by me.
The film follows Jodie Foster as Sara, and the events of one night which changed her life forever. The film is based on actual events which happen in 1983 in America, and at the time of release it caused a lot of controversy, because it adressed a sensitive topic in such an aggressive manner. Sara is a confident, attractive woman who is comfortable in the company of men, and sees nothing wrong with some harmless flirting. Is this you? Is this one of your friends? We all have done it once, so does it mean we are asking for something terrible to happen? One night while drinking with a friend after an argument with her boyfriend, Sara finds herself the focus of attention, mainly because there are very few women in the bar. One of the men buys her a drink, and they start to chat. He seems pretty amiable, and they get on well. They pass the time playing pinball with a man called Bob, and when her favourite song is put on the jukebox, she starts to dance. The dance is provocative at times, and then the man starts to dance with her and touch her, although she keeps trying to push him away. By this time, there is a crowd of men gathered around watching the "show". The man pushes her up against the pinball machine, and she starts to resist, he ignores her saying "no", and lifts her up onto the pinball machine, and as she is struggling so much, he calls on one of the other men, Kurt, to hold her down. The man then rapes her while being cheered on by the onlookers, in what is one of the most disturbing scenes I have seen, especially as this is just not a woman being raped by a man, he then encourages the onlookers to take their turn, and it is totally sickening. There are many times when I feel too voyeuristic and want to look away. Once they have finished, she flees the bar with her clothes ripped, and it is this scene which opens the film. The scenes are brutal, and do not try to glamourise the act of rape. She decides that the
se men will pay for what they have done, but she meets the same question time and time again. Did her behaviour make her look like she was asking for what happened? It is here that the film is at it's best. Rather than portray her as something she is not, she is shown as a woman who has a chequered sexual history, and is very vocal about the fact that she likes sex. She meets a lawyer played by Kelly McGillis, who agrees to take on her case, and then the film moves onto their fight against stereotypes and archaic attitudes. When they hear that the lawyers for the rapists have plea bargained their way out of a trial, which means according to official records, the rape never occured, not only do they go after the men who raped her, they want to see the men who watched and cheered pay the price for their actions. The court scenes I am sure are the same as many others in similar cases. Rather than trying the men who commited the act, Sara is made to clear her own name in court before her accusations are taken seriously, while she is constantly accused of egging them on. Made 14 years ago in 1988, this film saw Jodie Foster win the Oscar for Best Actress, and while many things in the film have dated, attitudes have not, and that is what I find most disturbing, and although the message that rape is wrong comes across crystal clear, there are women who suffer like Sara everyday. Jodie Foster did an amazing job portraying Sara, and she is accompanied on screen by another strong woman in Kelly McGillis. When I watch films, like most people I watch them to be entertained, but I loathe to use the word entertain about this film.
Getting an awful lot of credit for being the film that finally changed cinematic rape from an exploitation standby to a serious issue, 'The Accused' carries a lot of weight on its slim shoulders. Admittedly, only a knuckle-dragging neanderthal could come away from the film convinced that girls who wear short skirts are asking for it, and the two central performances are outstanding (Jodie Foster getting a well-deserved Oscar, and Kelly McGillis putting in a career best turn as the initially ambivalent prosecutor). Nevertheless, it's a fairly standard courtroom drama, and the rape flashback has a vaguely exploitative teasing quality - you know that's where the movie's going, and there's almost a sense of it being the set-piece climax. Other films (notably the similar Australian movie 'Shame', which crept out at around the same time) have dealt with the issue more sensitively and less explicitly. It's certainly sincere, and angry enough to make many sexists squirm, but somehow, it's not quite as solid or hard-hitting as perhaps it should be.
This is one of the most powerful movies I have ever seen. It is a great drama and truly gets its message over no questions asked. When a young girl is brutally raped in a bar, a lawyer helps her come to terms with it and to get not only the rapists but also the men who stood cowardly egging on the rapists as they attacked the girl. At one point of the trial we are given a vivid flashback of the nights events, in a scene that is both harrowing and revealing. The performance of young (at the time) Jodie Foster is remarkable, to do such a scene, and such a film took great guts from her. The moral of the tale goes deeper than the crime of rape, it looks into the idea of punishing those who encouraged the rape but did not take part physically. It makes you think and hate these people, cowards that they are. The film also has a strong message for the girls out there, be careful, and if parents want kids to be careful they can do a lot worse than shoewing their daughters this movie, it will make them think twice about seedy bars and drunken lowlifes. Despite a few plot flaws and some awkward acting, the film is an excellent one and conveys itself brilliantly.
It is ages since I saw since this film but the memory of it will last forever. Im glad that a film such as this has taken the objective view on Rape. I hope it has somehow managed to help people differentiate between when a women is just "flirting" or having fun, as opposed to full on "begging for it". The film pulls no punches and you are in no doubt that the woman is not exactly "lili white" . She almost demands the attention of the men in the bar, and as a single attractive girl alone in a bar full of drunken men, she begins to dance very very seductivly. This act alone is as stupid as they come but being stupid does not allow for anyone to be used so disgracefull in the manner that she was. She is left emotionally and physically bruised, and the film does not allow for any glamification on the rape itself. I personally could not bear to watch that particualr scene as it was so real. The film protrays brilliantly the womans fight for justice and I think does a great public service to women! Fantastic film.
Jodie Foster won her first Oscar for her role in The Accused (1988), based on an actual incident. While out for a night of fun at a poolroom, before her character knows what's happening she finds that the men she's been flirting with have pinned her down for a gang rape. The story centres on the efforts of a district attorney (Kelly McGillis) to press her case, in spite of a wall of silence by the participants--and then to take the unusual step of going after the witnesses as accomplices. Foster is outstanding as a tough, blue-collar woman who persists in what seems like an unwinnable case, despite the prospect of character assassination for standing up for herself. --Marshall Fine