HBO’s recent television movie, Confirmation, will be available on Blu-ray and DVD August 2nd, and has already been released for digital download and streaming. It’s the story of Anita Hill accusing Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his Supreme Court nomination hearing in 1991. Or, it tells a relatively one-sided, focused version of a small part of the story with a clear message and point that the film’s producers are trying to get across.
That may sound like a condemnation of the movie, but it is not. I merely want to state what this is before moving forward to talk about it. It is completely fair for someone to make a movie with a specific purpose in mind; many movies fall into that category. What is unusual is for a piece like this to come out when public opinion is still divided, at a time when our country has rarely been more partisan, with racism having been brought back to the forefront yet again, and many of the players involved are still in positions of power. Confirmation itself is a narrow story, but the issues it brings up are many, varied, and still very relevant.
Played by Scandal‘s Kerry Washington, Anita Hill is a sympathetic woman who did what she had to do in order to pursue a career in her chosen field, but who also has strong principles she cannot ignore when this man she was harassed by is given the chance to join the highest court in the land. She takes a little urging to come forward, but she refuses to lie even before that, and she does believe Clarence Thomas (Wendell Pierce, Treme, The Odd Couple) doesn’t deserve a job on the Supreme Court and should be stopped.
Despite it being clear where the writers think the truth lies, Confirmation does a pretty decent job of showing the different viewpoints various individuals involved have, providing a more complex story than the above description indicates. There are the female staffers like Ricki Seidman (Grace Gummer, Mr. Robot, The Newsroom) and Carolyn Hart (Zoe Lister-Jones, Life in Pieces) who are frustrated at the limitations their bosses follow. There are the white men on the judiciary committee like Joe Biden (Greg Kinnear, Little Miss Sunshine), Ted Kennedy (Treat Williams, Chicago Fire), Jack Danforth (Bill Irwin, Interstellar), Orrin Hatch (Dylan Baker, The Good Wife), and Alan Simpson (Peter McRobbie, Lincoln) whose own actions and political positions color how they see the situation, and whose race and class makes it hard for them to fully understand all sides. We see Thomas’ wife, Ginni (Alison Wright, The Americans), and how she believes what she has to. And there are others, played by the likes of Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family), Jeffrey Wright (Boardwalk Empire), Malcolm Gets (Caroline in the City), Erika Christensen (Parenthood), Kimberly Elise (Close to Home), and Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) that each bring a little something to add to the overall picture, too.
So while the movie itself is, at its core, quite biased, because of a very strong cast and good writing, the characters make the world seem more complex. It isn’t quite as straight forward as it might be. Add to that a very strong message of gender equality, how the race card can be misused, good historical context, and an empowered hero, and the result is something that, while not the most entertaining film made by this network, feels important and engaging. Because of what this movie says about our society, past and present, it is worthy of our attention.
The extras are sadly few and shallow. There are one-minute interviews with Kerry Washington and Wendell Pierce, and a thirteen-minute series of quick bios about each of the major players. That’s it. I really wish some documentary-style featurette were present to talk about the real events and the consequences of them, but that is left to a sequence in the end credits that, while satisfying for the viewing of the feature, is disappointing in fully fleshing out what Confirmation is. What’s missing most is a discussion about the angle that the movie takes and why that choice was made, as well as why other directions were not gone in.
Still, it’s a good film, so check it out. Confirmation can be bought digitally now, and will be out on disc on August 2nd.