Do not miss this flick.
I am not a movie critic, and I don't even play one on TV, but I can absolutely assure you that you need to see Marshall. I scored a last-minute ticket to the Buffalo premiere of this excellent film last Friday at the historic North Park Theatre during the Buffalo International Film Festival (BIFF). Sponsored by WNED/WBFO, it was a joyous celebration, complete with a red carpet and proud local officials introducing the film, and was followed by a fabulous Talk Back with Chris Bongirne and Jonathan Sanger, the movie's producers. It opens at theaters everywhere on Friday, October 13, but is already up at the North Park with multiple screenings daily.
Marshall is not the story of a Supreme Court justice, but focuses instead on one of Thurgood Marshall's first cases during his early crusading days working for the NAACP. Wealthy socialite (Kate Hudson) has accused her African-American chauffeur, Joseph Spell ("This is Us'" Sterling K. Brown), of raping her in a case that shook Bridgeport, CT in the early 1940s.
But Marshall was not filmed in Connecticut, which no longer looks like it did in the 1940s. It was filmed primarily in Buffalo, where we have managed to preserve some of the magnificent art deco architecture and period homes of that time.
It is delightful to recognize scenes on the front steps of and in the halls of our fabulous City Hall. Elegant scenes shot in the vast Central Terminal remind us of its illustrious past and speak to what it could be in the future. Beautiful homes on Middlesex and in the Parkside neighborhood are part of the story. Daemen College becomes a set, and Niagara Falls makes a cameo appearance. You may even spot a familiar face or two, as friends and neighbors show up on screen as extras. What fun!
And what a good thing for Buffalo. The producers and all involved in this major production have gone to great lengths to showcase the City of Good Neighbors, which clearly lived up to the moniker during the shoot. They enjoyed spending a bajillion dollars filming here, as well as the tax breaks that have proven to be so successful at drawing the movie industry to WNY, and received the warmest of welcomes and unprecedented cooperation in a city with much to offer - and much to gain. The economic benefits of an entire cast and crew spending weeks (and many dollars) in our fair city cannot be underestimated. The credits clearly state that that it was filmed in BUFFALO, making it double as an effective, albeit subliminal, piece of great PR.
But that's not why you need to see this movie.
This biographical legal drama, directed by Reginald Hudlin and starring Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall, paints a vivid portrait of systemic racism in America.
The reason that the NAACP sent Thurgood Marshall, even then their best and brightest, to Bridgeport to defend Joseph Spell, was to battle racism where it was least recognized. Not the blatant racism of the South, clearly identified by white hoods and Whites Only signs, but the far more subtle and pernicious racism found in the North. The same brand of racism that NFL players are kneeling to protest today.
Although it took place in Bridgeport, it could have happened in Buffalo. Although it is fictionalized, it is soundly predicated on facts. Although it happened in the 1940s, sadly systemic racial injustice is still omnipresent in America nearly 75 years later. Marshall brings home, vividly and literally, how little has changed and how far we must still go and how hard we must still fight to achieve any semblance of racial justice and equality.
This extremely well produced movie, this very well told tale, is a poignant reminder of the deep and abiding ailment that is racism in America. We need battalions of Thurgood Marshalls to combat it in the courts. And we must all speak up and refuse to countenance it right here in Buffalo, where the story unfolds today.
That's why you need to see Marshall. Plus, it's a great movie!
Happily, BuffaloVibe allows you to see at a glance where every movie is being shown on every screen in WNY any day of the week. Just click on Movies and select Marshall. Bada boom.