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Thurgood is the dazzling fusion of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and actor Laurence Fishburne, who demonstrates the kind of charisma he hasn't shown since playing Ike Turner in What's Love Got to Do with It? This filming of Fishburne's one-man Broadway show is half charming character portrait, half wry but galvanizing history lesson. Growing up in the era of racist Jim Crow laws, Marshall had initial ambitions to be a dentist, but constant exposure to injustice led him to the law. He arrived at Howard University as a new dean set out to transform the academy into a top law school. Marshall rose to the challenges he was given and became a lawyer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), turning the "separate but equal" doctrine against the institutions that used it as an excuse to deny black applicants. He repeatedly risked his life fighting for voting rights and individual justice in the South, nearly being lynched at one point. He lost a challenge to segregation at the state level, but pursued it to the Supreme Court, experiencing his greatest moment of truth arguing before the justices--twice. The stage production makes use of lighting effects, sound effects, and projections, but these are mere window-dressing; this powerful story is driven by Fishburne, whose resonant voice, subtle sideways looks, deep humor, and sheer intelligence ably convey the mind of one of the great American jurists. --Bret Fetzer
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Those completely new to the concept of a one man show should be aware that this is a piece that is reliant on words and performance. Aside from a couple of props and a creatively used backdrop that sets any particular scene, there is nothing here to watch except for Fishburne. So if you require extravagant production values or excessive visual stimulation, attending or watching a one man show may seem akin to watching grass grow. But if you appreciate engaging and intelligent wordplay and enjoy relevant history or even down home storytelling, it's hard not to be caught up in this delightful presentation. Marshall's life is played through its episodic high points (courtesy of a screenplay by George Stevens Jr.). Some of the film's essential moments include the historic battle of Brown versus The Board of Education, descriptions of the division between state law and constitutional provisions, and the cantankerous Supreme Court years in which judicial appointments evolve with political changes.
"Thurgood" is, ultimately, quite successful in detailing Marshall's career highlights. Personally, however, it is (by necessity and structure) a bit more superficial. References to his home life and his wives are played for pathos and/or humor as the situation dictates, but we never really see that side of Marshall. There are also plenty of comic asides that reference Marshall's wilder side--from drinking to an appreciation of women--that serve as levity points without being explored except as punchlines. But the intent of the piece was not to be a full scale biographical treatment of an entire life--it is an evening with the fictional Marshall as he regales you with his stories interpreted through his voice. As such, it is both informational and entertaining. And really, that's all one could hope for...and all that is needed! KGHarris, 3/11.
I have always complained that a severe problem with American actors is they have never confronted their audience - unlike the British, who spend years performing in the streets, at Shakespeare's old haunts and tiny old theaters. The British practically lay (or jump into) the audience's lap. Americans have no idea what an "audience" is.
In THURGOOD, Lawrence Fishburne, about whom I know little other than he's an actor I love, portrays USSC Justice Thurgood Marshall, a man who was a hero to both me and my father. Hoofing about onstage at the John F. Kennedy Center, before a live audience no more than a few feet from him, Fishburne shoulders this awesome one-man-play film with such cool, studied professionalism, I felt like it was actually Marshall.
But I know all along it is Fishburne and his amazing talent. He begins old, hobbled as I recall Marshall when he announced his retirement. Then Fishburne does the amazing: he ages backward twice, with nothing more (nothing less!) than his skill. Once he ages backward to middle age, then again to about his 30s. At the end, in the space of about ten minutes, he ages back to 'old age'. And he nails Marshall spot-on, voice, gestures, jokes and foul language that were hallmarks I recall very well.
This play mainly covers the story of Marshall's rise to fame in the law, describing his major lifetime accomplishments. It is sadly thin on his Supreme Court years because he did have a habit of simply concurring with Justice Stevens and nothing more. The play is happily thin on gimmickry, but I did not like the music competing with Fishburne's lines.
I loved the way certain photographs were flashed on the giant screen behind Fishburne, but that wasn't overdone, either. It flavored and bolstered the performance. I cannot believe the discipline, the memory and the sheer nerve it takes to do something this powerful and unique. This is not Leonard Nimoy playing Vincent Van Gogh's brother in "Theo". It isn't John Gielgud in his one-man stage film SWAN SONG, but it's darned close.
It is transcends an imaginary night with Thurgood Marshall; it isn't imaginary but it is 100% Fishburne. This is not the sort of thing I like at all. Some of my friends almost killed me for refusing to attend Hal Holbrook's portrayal of Mark Twain back when they brought the show here. I STILL would not go to a thing like that.
Here I am sorry as hell that I missed being at JFK Center to see Lawrence Fishburne - and when you see this, you will be sorry you weren't there either. Marshall once said he'd "live to be 110, then die ... shot by a jealous husband." Fishburne delivers the line flawlessly, and we wish the longevity had been true for Marshall. Certainly for Fishburne, and no doubt for this film.
Get this DVD and always have the next best thing. Remember also that you will be seeing something unique in modern cinema, something I hope we'll see productions companies do a LOT more often.
Howard University auditorium is the location HBO chose to film it and it proved the perfect locale. Fishburne even incorporates a couple of late arrivers to the show into the performance for good effect.
History, humor, humanity and drama blend here in a way you have never seen before and may never seen again. I intend to buy copies to donate to several local schools.
Laurence Fishburne has indeed come a long way from Cornbread, Earl, and Me. He made his mark in his compelling portrayal of a struggling African-American father with fierce integrity in Boyz In the Hood and since then he has more than become the consummate actor. He has maintained an air of integrity around him and his characterizations regardless of the weaknesses seem to possess at the very least a measure of dignity.
This performance can certainly be counted as an accomplishment. Understanding of the world then is made very personal and thus very easy to relate to. Fisburne wonderfully exemplifies Marshall's strengths and poignantly reveals his weaknesses in this intriguing, very informative, difficult, colloquial, sad, and funny one-man show. The wonderful photography and sound effects combine to make for a compelling evening of theater. Fishburne is in his element portraying the very human and ultimately exceptional example of leadership in the fight for civil rights. I was a teenager when Marshall was appointed in the 60s and can assure you it was indeed a VERY tumultuous time. It was eerie trying to celebrate and appreciate the magnitude of this progress while cities were going up in flames all around you.....and on a fairly regular basis.
.....obviously this was far more than an excellent theater production for me.....but isn't this just what good art form is supposed to do?!! :0)
I highly recommend this as not only an excellent one-man show with a tour-de-force performance but as more than a worthy addition to any movie library! It has something to say to ANY disenfranchised community.