That Time Robert Downey Jr Was a Lawyer

By Sheila Smith


It was a cold, rainy Saturday with nothing to do but school work. The rain had washed away all of my plans of going to the park with a friend so what do we decide to do? We decide to go see The Judge because it was either that or Disney’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. So my options were very, very limited. Although, that day started out sad and depressing, I have to say, seeing The Judge made it all better.

The Judge stars Robert Downey Jr., who is famously known as “the genius, playboy, billionaire, philanthropist,” Tony Stark a.k.a Ironman and Robert Duvall from The Godfather. There are also outstanding supporting roles from Vincent D’Onofrio, Billy Bob Thorton, Jeremy Strong, and Vera Farmiga. When seeing the trailer for this movie, someone would think that this is your stereotypical movie about that one son who decided to leave his broken home in a small city after graduating from college and years later decides to come back because of a pressing family matter. If you thought that, then you though wrong. This movie has some of those elements but it turns into so much more.

The Judge is about Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.), who is a successful defense attorney in Chicago, gets a call from his brother, Glen (Vincent D’Onofrio) telling Hank that their mother has passed. After getting the call, Hank immediately packs his bags and heads to his hometown, Carlinville, Indiana where we meet the rest of Hank’s family including the old, cranky, “great balls of fire,” Judge Joseph Palmer or what everybody calls him, including his sons, “Judge.”At this moment, anybody could feel this sort of cold towards Hank and it becomes this Citizen Kane scenario where the only person Hank really loved was his mother kind of thing.

After the funeral, there is absolutely no contact between Hank and Judge. There is this cold shoulder and nothing more. There are some nice interactions between Hank and his brother, who become the comic relief in this story but never between Hank and his dad. The only interaction we see before the main plot kicks in is when Judge decides to go to the local grocery store. While he goes the store, Hank and his brothers go to a bar. This scene is pretty great because we see more of Hank’s cocky personality or what I like to say, “Robert, your Tony Stark is coming out.” This also brings up a nice little subplot between him and his high school sweetheart, Samantha’s (Vera Farmiga) daughter. Is he the father or not? The world may never know.

The boys drive home in a drunken state. They get back safely even though Hank decides to back in the car and accidently puts a dent in the garage door. The next day, Hanks goes out to fix the dent in the garage and notices something very strange. When he opens the garage door, he look over at Judge’s car and notices a few dents and even bloodstains on the vehicle. When Hank confronts Judge about his car, Judge becomes defensive and anger Hank. He quickly leaves and heads to the airport. The second Hank sits down in his seat, his brother, Glen, who is just really the bearer of bad news, calls and tell him that Judge had been arrested for… wait for it… MANSLAUGHTER! At this moment, Hank is torn between leaving Indiana for good or go back to his family and well you should know what his decision is. No? Fine, he goes back to his family to defend his dad in court despite their differences. And from this point on I shall not say any more about this plot for eventually I will end up spoiling more things than I already have.

The Judge received mixed reviews which is sort of disappointing because I feel this movie deserved more credit than what it has been given. There were a lot of comments about how the characters’ behavior never changed or how the story did not end the way they expected. I am going to be honest with you guys, this movie does not end in the typical “Yay! The family is has set aside their differences and love each other!” There is no happy ending in this and I believe that is what made this movie seem more human than most. If movies are a way connecting with people, then you know that at some point in your journey there are going to be a few unhappy moments and all you can do is make the most of it and that is I find in The Judge.

Also, not everyone is going to change. Even though Hank tried to change his father from being uptight and in control, he was not successful. That is something that people deal with every day. You can try with all your might but sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. This is a lesson that Hank learns throughout the movie which shows that some of these characters do change at some point but not all.  And I have so much respect for that kind of style because I can easily connect to a situation like that versus a situation where someone quickly changes within a matter of minutes.

All in all, I think this movie is worth watching. It is not some superhero movie where you walk out of the theater feeling like a badass. It is a movie that will make you feel more human in a somewhat sad way but appreciate it for its story, its artistic motifs and underlying messages that connect with the human heart. Ciao!