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The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)
This case is a dangerous game of life and death.
Filmmaker(s): Brad Furman

A lawyer conducts business from the back of his Lincoln town car while representing a high-profile client in Beverly Hills.

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

Reverse Indemnity

What an amazingly lucky form the courtroom has presented filmmakers!

It allows us to have one film where we sit in our seats with others making sense of a narrative, where we watch another ‘film‘ where a lawyer presents a narrative to a seated audience. There all sorts of overlaps and touches in what is allowed between the two layers. Each depends on very strict formula.

In the outer story, everyone is a stereotype: the rich widow, the violent but honourable bikers, the ex-wife, pretty secretary, gruff cop and so on. Everyone operates according to rules we know, the only mystery being what rules apply.

In the inner story, we inherit the rules of the courtroom. These do not comport with reality any more than say movie spaceships match the world of physics, but we know what those rules are. We expect and in collaboration with the filmmaker we exploit them.

This is classic folded narrative. Amazingly, the genre is flexible enough to be stretched in an interesting way. The usual form is: evidence will surely convict an innocent man, and it is up to our (sometimes noirish) lawyer to align the outcome of the two narratives. The variety we have experienced in our small century of film is pretty broad, each one setting new bounds for another.

In this case, we have an early hint that the police are framing a guy. Then we suddenly are told that no, the suspect is guilty not only of that crime, but of a previous one that resulted in an innocent‘s conviction. Now it becomes the lawyer‘s job as inner filmmaker to bring the outer story to the court rather than the usual other way around.

The novelty of how he does this depends on our acceptance of inviolable rules of lawyering and trials, and it really is clever. He uses a THIRD storyteller, one who as an outlaw follows no story rules. This fellow is manipulated (because he DOES follow the rules of stereotype) into telling a fabricated story. He is a proved false storyteller, but his falsehood is true and allows the main folds to resolve.

Because these things require a twist, and the main narrative does not allow for one, we have an extra bit on the end that surprises a little on a minor plot point. It features the notable Frances Fisher.

Some of the car comings and goings that are usually filler and transition are used here as settings for genuine storytelling. The black chauffeur, our designated representative (named after Erle Stanley) in the non-courtroom threads, is always a risky play when the whole enterprise depends on stereotypes. Fortunately, we are far from offended by the special place this actor (Laurence Mason) finds.

Posted in 2011

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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