The Accused (1988 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jonathan Kaplan|
|Produced by||Stanley R. Jaffe
|Written by||Tom Topor|
|Music by||Brad Fiedel|
|Cinematography||Ralf D. Bode|
|Edited by||O. Nicholas Brown
Gerard B. Greenberg
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$32,078,318 (USA)|
The Accused is a 1988 American drama film written by Tom Topor and directed by Jonathan Kaplan. It starred Jodie Foster and Kelly McGillis. The film is set in Washington state and filmed in Vancouver, Canada.
The film was loosely based on the 1983 gang rape of Cheryl Araujo in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and the resulting trial, which received national coverage. This film was one of the first Hollywood films to portray rape graphically.
The film was well received. Jodie Foster portrayed Sarah Tobias, the victim, earning the Academy Award for Best Actress, the film's sole nomination. This was the first time that the lead actress won the Best Actress Academy Award without the film being nominated in any other category since 1962, when Sophia Loren won Best Actress for her performance in Two Women.
One night at a bar, working-class woman Sarah Tobias (Foster) is gang raped by several drunk bar patrons, while onlookers cheer them on. Assistant district attorney, Kathryn Murphy (McGillis) is assigned to the rape case. Her superior wants to drop the case, believing that Sarah's background and prior record will make her testimony appear weak to the jury and that she will not win the case. After a heated argument, her superior suggests she arrange a plea bargain with the rape defendants that requires some jail time. They make a plea bargain to charges of reckless endangerment, and are sentenced to prison. Sarah is enraged by the deal, as she did not get to testify in court against her attackers.
Sarah is hospitalized after she rammed a pickup truck, recognizing its driver as one of the witnesses from the bar, and being outraged by his crude proposition of her. After this, Kathryn decides to prosecute the men who cheered the rape for criminal solicitation. Sarah's friend Sally (Ann Hearn), a waitress at the bar where the rape took place, picks three men out of a line-up as those who encouraged the attackers. They get three different defense attorneys for the ensuing trial.
Sarah testifies that she was raped. College student Kenneth Joyce (Bernie Coulson), a friend of one of the rapists, testifies to watching the rape before he made a 911 call to notify police. After Kathryn's closing statement and a single summation from the three defense lawyers, the jury deliberates for a long time. They ask several times for Ken's testimony to be reread to them.
In the end, the jury convicts the three defendants. As the trial provides testimony and evidence that the men raped Sarah, the three men already serving prison time for reckless endangerment are unlikely to be granted early parole and will likely have to register as sex offenders for many years afterwards.
- Jodie Foster as Sarah Tobias
- Kelly McGillis as Assistant District Attorney Kathryn Murphy
- Bernie Coulson as Kenneth Joyce
- Leo Rossi as Cliff "Scorpion" Albrect
- Ann Hearn as Sally Fraser
- Carmen Argenziano as District Attorney Paul Rudolph
- Steve Antin as Bob Joiner
- Tom O'Brien as Larry
- Peter Van Norden as Attorney Paulsen
- Terry David Mulligan as Lieutenant Duncan
- Woody Brown as Danny
- Scott Paulin as Attorney Ben Wainwright
- Kim Kondrashoff as Kurt
- "I'm Talking Love" by Vanessa Anderson
- "At This Moment" by Billy Vera & The Beaters
- "Kiss of Fire" by James Harman
- "Love to the Limit" by Only Child
- "Love in Return" by Gina Schock
- "Middle of Nowhere" Gina Schock and Vance DeGeneres
- "Walk in My Sleep" by House of Schock
- "Mojo Boogie" by Johnny Winter
Reception and awards
The film grossed a total of $32,078,318.
Writing of the two criminal prosecutions in the film, Roger Ebert finds that the lesson of the trial "may be the most important message this movie has to offer...that verbal sexual harassment, whether crudely in a saloon back room or subtly in an everyday situation, is a form of violence - one that leaves no visible marks but can make its victims feel unable to move freely and casually in society. It is a form of imprisonment."
Jodie Foster won an Academy Award as Best Actress for her performance; the film received no other nominations for Academy Awards. It was the first time this had occurred since 1962, when Sophia Loren won Best Actress for her performance in Two Women.
Since The Accused, there have been other instances in which women leads won Academy Awards for Best Actress in films that did not receive other nominations: Kathy Bates for Misery (in which she plays a psychotic, obsessed fan holding the object of her affection hostage); Jessica Lange for Blue Sky (in which she portrays a housewife living with bipolar disorder); Charlize Theron for Monster (in which she portrays a serial killer who attacks men); and Julianne Moore for Still Alice (in which she portrays a woman with Alzheimer's disease).
Marjorie Heins, in the 1998 book The V-Chip Debate: Content Filtering from Television to the Internet, said that educators worried that the film would "receive V ratings and be subject to at least a presumption against curricular use in many public schools."
Kelly McGillis acknowledged at the time of film release that she had survived an attack and rape. Based on her experience, the actress took the role of the fictional Assistant District Attorney Murphy in the film. McGillis was initially recruited to play the role of Sarah Tobias (the assault victim) but declined, citing her personal experience.
In 1982, McGillis was assaulted, raped, and robbed in her home by Leroy Johnson, a sex offender who had recently escaped from juvenile jail, and his adult accomplice. Johnson was convicted but, because of his age, received a reduced sentence. He served three-plus years for the attack and rape of McGillis. The prosecution found it had insufficient evidence to charge his adult accomplice. Johnson later served time for threatening to kill Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He was convicted of two additional rapes, and was sentenced to 50 years, with a release date of March 2048.
- Aestheticization of violence, includes a discussion of Kaplan's use of a violent rape scene in The Accused
- List of films based on actual events
- 61st Academy Awards
- "The Accused (1988)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
- Roger Ebert (October 14, 1988). "The Accused", Chicago Sun-Times
- "Berlinale: 1989 Programme". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2011-03-09.
- Marjorie Heins, "Three Questions About Television Ratings," in The V-Chip Debate: Content Filtering from Television to the Internet, ed. Monroe E. Price. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers (1998): 54
- Kelly McGillis, as told to Kristin McMurran (14 November 1988). "Memoir of a Brief Time in Hell". People. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
- Maull, Samuel (June 13, 2006). "Sex Offender Apologizes for McGillis Rape", CBS News, 13 June 2006.
- Aquino, John T. (2005). "Big Dan's Tavern Rape Trial (1983) / Film: The Accused (1988)," in Truth and Lives on Film: The Legal Problems of Depicting Real Persons and Events in a Fictional Medium. McFarland. pp. 140–143. ISBN 0786420448.
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