In this slow, talky adaptation of John Grisham's best-seller, Alan Pakula--director of subtle and suspenseful thrillers like KLUTE and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN--is undone by the stubborn shortcomings of his source material. Grisham's ramshackle plot has no suspense, yields no surprises, and
demands almost constant explanations to get to its ending.
The plot is set in motion by the baffling murders of two Supreme Court justices, a curmudgeonly liberal (Hume Cronyn) and a closeted Republican homosexual (Ralph Cosham); all they have in common is a pro-environment inclination. Spirited and beautiful law student Darby Shaw (Julia Roberts) puts
together a brief theorizing that the culprit could be a shadowy oil millionaire determined to tap a billion-dollar oil reserve in the fragile Louisiana bayou habitat of the endangered brown pelican. Her lover (Sam Shepard) shows the brief to a friend in the FBI, Verheek (John Heard), and suddenly
Darby is the most hunted woman in America. Washington Herald reporter Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington) becomes her ally as she seeks to evade her shadowy pursuers and find out the truth behind a scandal that reaches to the highest levels of government.
THE PELICAN BRIEF is a shallow bore. Grisham's characters are rudimentary, and both Roberts and Washington are stiff and over-earnest. Normally, the bad guys could be relied upon to enliven the action, but THE PELICAN BRIEF's creepy oilman has only one scene in the book and none in the screen
version, which may be the most realistic aspect of the film--in real life, bad guys almost invariably appear only in the damage they do. In the movies, however, staying true to life makes for a long and trying evening.
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: In this slow, talky adaptation of John Grisham's best-seller, Alan Pakula--director of subtle and suspenseful thrillers like KLUTE and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN--is undone by the stubborn shortcomings of his source material. Grisham's ramshackle plot has no… (more)