July 28, 2016


Starring Kerry Washington, Wendell Pierce, Alison Wright, Zoe Lister-Jones, Erika Christensen, Jennifer Hudson, Greg Kinnear, Jeffrey Wright, Bill Irwin, Treat Williams. Directed by Susannah Grant. (2016, 126 min).

Ah, the good old days, when political scandals were real news. Today, whenever a public figure says or does something that could be considered even remotely objectionable, the media turns it into the next Watergate. Tomorrow, yet-another scandal will replace it in the headlines. Some of us will be outraged, forming opinions based on whatever news source reflects our personal values, while the rest of us have become too jaded to give it much more than night's worth of dinner conversation before moving on. We're so accustomed to scandal that it's simply another part of our daily routine.

It wasn't always this way, which is important to remember when watching HBO's Confirmation. The film dramatizes the 1991 hearings in which Anita Hill (Kerry Washington) came forward with allegations of sexual harassment by her former boss, Clarence Thomas (Wendell Pierce), just as he's about to be nominated into the Supreme Court. At the time, this case was not only shocking, but unprecedented, and was a major catalyst in shaping how incidents of sexual harassment are currently viewed and defined.

The film wisely humanizes both Hill and Thomas without deifying one and demonizing the other (though, with her initial reluctance to come forward, Hill is obviously the more sympathetic character here). If anything, the real villains of the film are those overseeing the hearing, many of them trying to discredit Hill in any way possible to avoid further embarrassment over their choice of Thomas as a Supreme Court judge. Washington effectively portrays Hill as a deer caught in the headlights. Meanwhile, Pierce convinces us that Thomas truly doesn't believe he did anything wrong, to the point we - almost -  empathize with him, even though public opinion has-since rendered him guilty.

Like the hearings themselves, Confirmation doesn't come to any concrete resolution, content to simply reenact recent history. As such, it is quite interesting when viewed within the context of when it takes place, long before public scandal was standard routine.

Featurettes: "Kerry Washington on the Historical Impact"; "Wendell Pierce on the Historical Impact"; "Confirmation: Character Spots"
Digital Copy

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