So my eyeballs are chugging along, watching this Hollywood-ized story about a rape trial. We hear various accounts of the rape incident throughout the movie, like a white trash rashomon, but finally get to see it deep into the third act. Jodie Foster gets drunk at a bar, does some sexy dancing, and is then raped by three douchey sleezeoids right on top of a pinball machine. I was kinda buying the movie up to this point, but now I have to call shenanigans.
No rape tilt?
Once I was playing pinball as a kid, and I got frustrated and smacked the side of the machine, and a tilt alarm went off and I ran away. If the machine in the movie had went off like it was supposed to, it might have halted the rape, as the bar owner in the adjacent room would’ve heard someone messing with the game and came running in and yelled “NO GANG RAPE ON MY PINBALL MACHINE! TAKE IT OUTSIDE!”. While hardly a heroic breakup, this at least would’ve allowed Jodie time to get away before things got EXTRA rapey. In this world of drunken male pigishness, some men rape, a few cheer on rape, and the rest stay out of rape’s business.
Anyway, like I was saying, we hear all of the different eyewitness accounts throughout the movie without actually seeing the incident. This is how justice works, where you usually don’t have the actual crime recorded on film (except for an open and shut case like that Rodney King…oh never mind), so you have to rely on testimony and evidence. We are allowed to make up our own minds as to exactly what happened, as truth in justice is never absolute.
However, once we actually see the incident in the case of The Accused, a very detailed account mind you, we know exactly what happened, making the justice system irrelevant in our minds. We know who is guilty of what and why, regardless of the process. It’s the film’s way of tying up loose ends and giving us closure, just as the music swells when a guilty verdict is reached. Imagine 12 Angry Men showing us EXACTLY what happened right before the verdict. It has a way of nullifying all of the work of the jurors up to that point in the mind of the audience.
The guilty verdict is also a bit misleading. Jodie is raped to holy hell, barely able to speak because she was being choked at the time. She is a simple white trash girl with simple values. She doesn’t want a cash settlement, or even a book deal. She wants to see these three fuckers nailed to the wall. In other words…justice. Her attorney, Kelly McGillis, tries to appease her wishes.
However, she quickly realizes that Jodie is not much of a material witness. She was both high and drunk at the time, has a criminal record and, worst of all, has a personalized license plate saying SXY SADI. It’s an unfortunate fact that a woman with the word SEX on her license plate is more likely to get raped then ones who do not. I guess men see the word “sex” and then see a female associated with that word and put two and two together and come to the conclusion that this woman is advertising. A bit literal minded, me thinks.
Well, since Kelly realizes the chance for victory is slim, she accepts a plea bargain for the three rapists of “reckless endangerment”. She celebrates this “victory” with her yuppie lawyer friends, and Jodie crashes the party in angry fashion, having only heard about it on television (while working as a baseball themed waitress, which we need more of in this country, for the record). Jodie has good reason to be angry. Not only did Kelly not consult Jodie on her decision to except the plea bargain, she didn’t even bother to tell her afterwards. Granted, she’s an assistant D.A. and not hired directly as a lawyer by Jodie, but I think some basic communication would’ve been common courtesy in this case.
Kelly takes this conversation to heart, and tries to earn victory for Jodie by attempting to put away the dudes that cheered on the gang rape. This hardly seems like “true justice”, but Kelly points out that, if the cheerleaders are convicted, the rape will be on file in some form, rather than just a case of “endangerment”. Seems like some semantical wordplay to me, except that it could set a precedent that would prevent guys from cheering on gang rapes in the future, at least state wide, but then gang rape cheerleaders will just move to another state. But hey, a start is a start.
Well, this change of heart is conveyed with the most boring cinematic trick in the book: the lawyer montage. Kelly stays up all night, eyeball deep in case histories, looking for an arcane case or obscure legalese to nail some sleaze to the wall. Of course, her male pig district attorney yells at her and threatens her job for even contemplating such a case. However, he makes some sense, however theatrically. If you can’t prosecute rape, how are you gonna prosecute the cheering on of rape? She is also clearly doing this out of feeling bad for Jodie, and well know a lawyer with feelings about other human beings is a lawyer destined to fail. The Accused is loosely based on a real case, but this turn of character and resulting decision reeks of forced Hollywood heroism and closure. Then again, my knowledge of the inner workings of the legal mind mostly comes from repeated viewings of Soul Man.
So, basically, what we have here is another mostly boring, Hollywood-ized courtroom drama. What makes it stand apart is Jodie’s performance, both appropriately amping up the white trash tics while keeping things rooted in the character’s emotional turmoil, and giving it a New York method mumbler edge. My favorite bit of acting from her is the scene where she calls her nagging mother and wants to tell her about the rape, but can’t bring herself to do so.
The movie also introduces a rape paradox that may have been cutting edge circa 1988 (or hopefully just common sense). That is, a drunk slut deserves as much legal protection from rape as a nun, yet a drunk slut is going to have a hard time winning a rape case. Perhaps a combination of forensic science and the proliferation of camera phones will help us eventually close this gap.
Personally, I think sluts are awesome and, maybe I’m in the minority, but not only do I think that they deserve equal treatment, but I’ll go one step further and say that they should be protected as national treasures, or at least be given a substantial tax break. The sad reality is that, if sluts keep getting raped, pretty soon there aren’t going to be any of them left, and that is a sad America I don’t want any part of. So, do your part my fellow citizens and punch rapists in the balls or at least alert the authorities. Together we can fight this scourge and protect the most esteemed segment of our population.