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Film / Marshall

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Marshall is a 2017 American Law Procedural Biopic directed by Reginald Hudlin and starring Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown, Kate Hudson, Dan Stevens, and James Cromwell.

The movie tells the true story of a 1941 Connecticut court case in which Joseph Spell (Brown), a Black chauffeur, is accused of raping his white employer (Hudson). When the case makes national headlines, the NAACP sends their lawyer Thurgood Marshall (Boseman) to defend him. Upon arriving in Greenwich, Marshall is teamed up with Sam Friedman (Gad), a local attorney who has taken the case as a favor with the understanding that Marshall would be trying it in the courtroom, only for the judge to rule that only Sam is allowed to speak during the trial. Now the two of them have to work together to uncover the truth behind the case and prove their client's innocence.

Tropes Associated with Marshall Include:

  • And the Adventure Continues: Marshall is sent to take another case in Mississippi before the verdict of the Spell case is read.
  • Badass Bookworm: Marshall carries his law library with him in suitcases and is also capable of handling himself in a fight.
  • Badass Bystander: The bartender at the bar where Marshall drinks, who pulls a shotgun out when some racist white men start a brawl with him.
  • Bait-and-Switch: While in the restroom of his synagogue, Friedman is asked by someone about the case. Friedman, cautious because he's afraid of what defending a black man accused of raping a white woman would make him look like, confirms he's part of the defense. The man who asked him then comments his father would be proud and slips him a 15 dollar bill to help with the defence.
  • Bungled Suicide: Eleanor jumps from a bridge following her fling with Spell, terrified of her husband's wrath should he find out, but the fall isn't high enough to kill her and her swimming skills reflexively take over.
  • The Cameo
    • Jussie Smollett appears in one scene as poet and Real Life friend of Thurgood Marshall, Langston Hughes.
    • The final scene features cameos from Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, parents of Travyon Martin, as well as Civil Rights Attorney Benjamin Crump.
  • Crusading Lawyer: Thurgood Marshall, naturally.
    • Friedman goes on to become one after the case is over
  • Domestic Abuse: Eleanor's husband beat her, leaving her with bruises.
  • False Rape Accusation: It turns out that Eleanor lied about having been raped by Spell to cover up for having had a consensual fling with him.
  • I'll Take That as a Compliment: When one of the prosecutors snidely tells Friedman "You sound just like the Negro (Thurgood)", Friedman thanks him and tells him "That's the nicest compliment you could ever give me."
  • Lady-Not-Appearing-In-This-Trailer: By a show of hands, how many people knew that Kate Hudson was in this film before actually watching it?
  • Mononymous Biopic Title
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Friedman and Marshall are beaten by two separate groups of local bigots after taking on the case. Thurgood, however, fares much better in his scenario, thanks to better odds, his superior fighting skills and experience in such matters, and the timely intervention of a shotgun wielding bartender.
  • Omnidisciplinary Lawyer: Played with. Friedman is an insurance lawyer by trade with no real experience in criminal cases. He doesn't have any intention of staying on the case after submitting Marshall to the court, and only remains after the judge rules Marshall can consult but is not allowed to speak in the courtroom. Friedman is notably clumsy early in the trial as as a result of his inexperience in criminal law. However, after intense coaching by Thurgood, and a healthy dose of cramming several books on the matter, Sam gradually becomes far more comfortable, confident and adept in defending his client. He later becomes an extremely noteworthy advocate for civil rights in the state of Connecticut.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: In Eleanor Strubings version of events, Spell attacked her, then threw her off of a bridge. In Spell's version, they had consensual sex and she jumped from the bridge out of fear of being found out.
  • Smug Snake: Loren Willis, the prosecutor, is condescending, racist, and is even heard talking about letting the Nazis and the Communists finish each other off in Europe.
  • Unconventional Courtroom Tactics: At one point, Marshall gags Friedman so they can demonstrate that Strubing would have been able to scream for help according to her own story. Marshall also takes this opportunity to question Strubing himself since Friedman is gagged, which the Judge quickly stops.
  • White Gal on Black Guy Drama: Spell in fact had a consensual sexual relationship with Eleanor Strubing, and her fear over this being discovered is what drives her to accuse him of rape.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Friedman is Jewish, and sometimes speaks to his family in Hebrew.