Truth and Melodrama and Phil Spector

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PHIL SPECTOR, written and directed by David Mamet, will debut on HBO on Sunday, March 24, 2013.

We know any drama ends when we find the answer to the question which gave rise to it. When we discover the answer simultaneously with the hero, the dramatist has done a very good job indeed.

Phil Spector, the world’s most successful music producer, is accused of Murder. He has asked a young woman, Lana Clarkson, to his home. She goes, and dies of a gunshot wound to the head — a revolver has been placed in her mouth and the trigger pulled. Why do I use the passive voice? Here’s why. The question of Spector’s defense team is, “Who shot her?” There seem to be but two alternatives, she herself (suicide) or Spector (homicide). This is where the film begins.

A new attorney, Linda Kenny Baden (played by Helen Mirren), is brought onto the defense team. She, the hero of the film, tells the lead lawyer (played by Jeffrey Tambor) that she “will not indict the girl.” We find that, in our film, Spector has a history of brandishing guns, and testimony exists of women who claim he “held them against their will” with a firearm. He, that is, has a rotten and fairly universal reputation as a reprehensible and dangerous man, and as vicious to women. Baden says she’ll advise the defense team for three days, but will do nothing to malign the victim.

Baden is bound by oath to provide the best possible defense for a man who the public abhors as a monster, and though she has come to have some affection for him, she sees no way a Jury will give him his constitutional right to the Presumption of Innocence unless she indicts Clarkson as a suicide, which she will not do.

An acquaintance of Spector’s (Yolanda Ross) says, “I know your client; he’s a terrible man.” Mirren responds, “That’s not what he’s accused of.” But, of course, that is what he’s accused of, which Mirren understands as she works on the case.

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