Reversal of Fortune
Amazon.com essential video: One of the most intriguing criminal trials of the 1980s involved Claus von Bülow, who was accused of sending his rich wife Sunny into a permanent coma with an overdose of insulin. Director Barbet Schroeder, working from Nicholas Kazan's evocative, darkly humorous script, turns the story into both a look at the lives of rich folks with too much time on their hands and a whodunit, as lawyer Alan Dershowitz (Ron Silver) prepares to defend von Bülow (Jeremy Irons) in court. Irons won an Oscar for his spooky, knowing performance, which hints at depths of degeneracy without ever putting a dent in a veneer of bored elegance. The contrast between the hard-charging Dershowitz and his eager-beaver Harvard law students and the eternally languid von Bülow adds unexpected humor. --Marshall Fine
Top customer reviews
The movie drags a little bit and has fits and starts, and there's some soapboxing about the right of everyone to a defense and ethics. But mostly, Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons steal the show and you get sucked into their little lives...and wonder....
Also, bless Glenn Close for being not only a phenomenal actor, but willing to be dragged around on the bathroom floor.
In this case, the precedent which the appeals court had established for itself was the standard that a theory of guilt and conviction based on the grounds of deficient evidence could only be overturned by the presentation of a superior theory. Hence the defense team concocted a wholesale assault on every supposition of evidence on which the prosecution had obtained their conviction.
Professor and students wrestle to maintain their professional composure while probing how to walk a fine line between moral guilt without legal culpability OR legal guilt without moral culpability. The principle at stake is that our American justice system demands that the guilty as well as the innocent are entitled to a vigorous defense. Imagine the irony of Adolf Hitler contacting a Jewish defense attorney to represent him at Nuremberg...do you turn him down, or do you take the case and then kill him...the tension in the air gets pretty thick sometimes. But don't be put off by a couple gratuitous explosions of the f-bomb. The quirky nature of the family involved is too entertaining to not have thick skin.
The real question in my mind as I've viewed this film several times over, was how much 'intent' had been loaded into the mother's suicide attempt (played by Glen Close, who also narrates). It's a compelling dilemma of the law team's question of whether or not the step children had framed a guilty man. It's also a component of what Claus Von Bulow ultimately admits to his attorney, about his love letters to his mistress that got dumped in Sonny's lap one day unexpectedly, practically spitting out the phrase, "Alexandra the spiteful."
More than once we hear the anguished question from Glen Close, "How could you leave me there alone with all those beautiful letters?" (Not to me!)