American courtrooms provide excellent settings for bringing together characters from all ethnic and social classes. Justice, according to the cliché, is blind and all are entitled to fairness under the law. Recently, this column has reviewed "12 Angry Men" and "A Few Good Men." Both films are courtroom dramas that juxtapose men from different backgrounds. For a film in this genre that centers on female characters, see "The Accused," from 1988.
"The Accused" stars Jodie Foster as Sarah Tobias, a recreational drug user and hard-talking partier. Sarah is a young waitress who lives in a hard-edged, blue-collar environment. One night, after drinking too much and dancing provocatively in a pool room, several male patrons rape her while other male bystanders cheer them on as if they are watching a sporting event. The dedicated prosecutor assigned to the case, Kathryn Murphy (played by Kelly McGillis), knows that Sarah's behavior will be as big an issue as the crimes committed by the men. Nonetheless, she believes that the victim's character should be of little relevance and that both the rapists and their cheering section are the real guilty parties.
"The Accused" features one of Jodie Foster's best performances. Although she is a victim, Sarah is still not entirely likeable, and she does place herself in a dangerous situation. Foster won a well-deserved Oscar for her performance. Kelly McGillis is also quite good as her lawyer, who knows what kind of person Sarah is, but still works on her behalf. Her determination gets her into trouble with some of her male colleagues. Another great performance is by Leo Rossi, who plays Albrecht. He is a loathsome character as he was one of the people who cheered the rape.
Unfortunately, sexual assault is much in the news today, and this 26-year-old film contains significant messages for today's viewers. "The Accused" is an important film.