Nine days after Deadline‘s Michael Fleming reported that Dan Gilroy‘s Roman J. Israel, Esq. has been trimmed by 12 minutes and to some extent re-edited, elite L.A. journos have been invited to see the “new” Roman J. Israel a few days hence. And in the morning yet — bagels, coffee and scrambled eggs at 9 am, the movie at 10 am, and then Gilroy and star Denzel Washington sitting for a q & a around noon.
A month and a half ago I conveyed how much I loved the first 85% to 90% of of Roman J. Israel. I called it “a whipsmart, cunningly performed, immensely satisfying film in so many ways. Such a skillful job of character-building on Gilroy’s part, layer upon layer and bit upon bit, and such a finely contoured performance by the great Denzel Washington.
I loved the specificity of Denzel’s stuck-in-the-past attorney character (the old-fashioned earphones, the modest apartment, the odd ’70s dress style, the music he listens to, the Asperger’s social tics), and that I was really pulling for the guy, and that a feeling of comfort came over me when he bought a couple of nice suits and lost the ’70s Afro and started going out with Carmen Ejogo‘s Maya, in some ways a kindred spirit of Roman’s and vice versa.
Then the thing happened and I was saying “this is how it ends? I don’t want this. I don’t like this.” But I so loved the film right up to this point.
“Roman is a brilliant guy,” I explained to a friend this morning. “I understand that for dramatic purposes he needs to be in a difficult or desperate place at the end of Act 2, but Gilroy should have somehow figured a way out of this, some clever-ass, end-run gambit that involves Denzel’s amazing recall and generally phenomenal brain-power. He pulls something off, lucks out, fortune smiles, etc.”
I just think it’s a bad idea to create a complex guy with flaws and character ripples and attributes, and then show him going through a fairly profound life-change that feels good and calming all around, and then pull the rug out. That really didn’t work for me.
I understand that we need to wipe the Toronto slate clean and see how the new version works and then go from there. I get that. I’m ready to absorb and possibly adjust.
Also posted from Toronto: “This is such a brilliant, invigorating and fully believable film for over-30s — milieu-wise, legal minutiae-wise, Asperger’s-wise. It’s my idea of pound cake topped with whipped cream and strawberries — give it to me. You can take a terrific bath in this film and never feel unsatisfied that the story isn’t quite delivering the way you want it to. Until the last 20 or 25 minutes, that is, but even then it’s not a fatal problem, just an air-escaping-the-balloon one.”