“The only way through a bigot’s door is to breakdown,” is one of the many thunderous lines in the movie Marshall, which released earlier this year. In honor of Black History Month, this is a perfect movie to sit down and learn about a monumental figure that was an active leader during the Civil Rights Movement. Thurgood Marshall was the first African American judge to sit on the Supreme Court and is well known for his win in the case Brown vs Board of Education that desegregated American schools in the early 1950s. Though this case pushed an entire movement forward, the movie focused on a much different story.
The movie centers on Joseph Spell (actor Sterling K. Brown), an African American man accused of raping a rich white woman by the name of Eleanor Strubing (actress Kate Hudson). Spell is found working for Strubing as her chauffeur and butler in their tight knit community of Greenwich, Connecticut. Made up of rich socialites with a lot of time on their hands, Strubing’s accusation spread fast and began to insight racist stereotypes. In the eyes of the community, Spell was guilty. The newspapers naturally followed by picking up the story and perpetuating a fear across the community that black men were dangerous which led to more ostracization of the African American community. Therefore, as one of the best black lawyers in the NAACP at the time, Marshall was called upon to represent Spell. With his confidence and exceptional regard for the law, Marshall took the case and began the journey to find the truth.
He wasn’t alone though. Facing the hard-headed Judge Foster (James Cormwell), Marshall began to try and convince a young, white insurance lawyer by the name of Sam Friedman (Josh Gad) to assist him on the case. Begrudgingly, Friedman agreed realizing the judge wouldn’t hear the case otherwise. Flashing back to the night of the alleged rape, the movie outlined the intricate details of this story while highlighting the elusiveness of the truth.
Injecting humor through the dynamic between Marshall and Friedman, the movie finds the perfect balance with the hard truth of racism in the early 1940s and also captures Marshall’s character in one moment of time.
The excellence of this portrayal is evident in that Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a eighty-three percent, a high value considering the reputation Rotten Tomatoes when rating films. Many other critics though have given less than favorable reviews of the film, all pointing to the fact that the movie doesn’t capture the true essence of Marshall. Numerous people claimed that he deserved a feature film that goes through his life, especially during the time he fought in Brown vs. Board of Education. Though this may be true, Marshall looked at the beginning of Thurgood’s journey to Supreme Court judge which is arguably just as important as his time working on one of the biggest cases in history. This movie is one that is worth the watch, especially as we celebrate the importance of Black History Month.