Sneak Peek: Denial
Based on the acclaimed book Denial: Holocaust History on Trial, Denial recounts Deborah E. Lipstadt’s (Academy Award® winner Rachel Weisz) legal battle for historical truth against David Irving (BAFTA nominee Timothy Spall), who accused her of libel when she declared him a Holocaust denier. In the English legal system, in cases of libel, the burden of proof is on the defendant, therefore it was up to Lipstadt and her legal team led by Richard Rampton (Academy Award® nominee Tom Wilkinson), to prove the essential truth that the Holocaust occurred.
Starring: Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener, The Lobster), Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton, In The Bedroom), Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner, The King’s Speech), and Andrew Scott (“Sherlock,” Spectre)
Directed by Mick Jackson (“Temple Grandin,” The Bodyguard)
Written by David Hare (The Reader, The Hours)
Produced by Gary Foster (Sleepless in Seattle, Tin Cup) and Russ Krasnoff (The Soloist, My Old Lady)
This transcript has been lightly edited:
The Referee: Hey there, listeners. Guess what? The Critic and I caught a Sneak Peek — I barely caught a Sneak Peek (laughter) — of the new movie, “Denial,” which comes out this Friday, September 30. And, it stars some pretty cool people. Actually, it stars a stellar cast.
The Critic: Yeah.
Ref: We have Rachel Weisz — who’s no stranger to our show — Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall, Anthony Scott — I mean, the list goes on and on. It’s directed by Mick Jackson. Yes, he did “The Bodyguard” (laughter) —
Ref: — and written by [David] Hare, based on Deborah Lipstadt’s book. And, basically, it may feel like a familiar story, but we’ve got some things we want to talk about.
Critic: Yeah, that’s right. So, it’s based on a true story, like you said, based on Deborah Lipstadt’s book. What we see, at the beginning of the movie, is her as a professor: She’s teaching a class. And this, everybody, is about the denial of the Holocaust. That’s what the whole thing is about, and that’s what she’s an expert in: denying the deniers. OK? So, she’s Jewish. You know, she also has a stake in this other than just being a professor.
Critic: So, what happens is: One of the biggest deniers out there, across the pond — because she is American — is a British guy, played by Timothy Spall.
Ref: David Irving. Ugh.
Critic: Yes. So, he is completely against the Holocaust; he thinks it’s a joke; and all of the nasty things that you can come up with, he believes, in regards to that. So, what happens is: He confronts her at one of her symposiums, or — she’s essentially having a Q&A with students at a college. He surreptitiously —
Ref: Oh. Say that five times fast.
Critic: Surreptitiously, surreptitiously —
Ref: No, don’t do that. (laughs)
Critic: OK. He surreptitiously comes in —
Ref: That was four, by the way. (laughter)
Critic: — and ruins it for her.
Critic: He says, “Hey, I have a thousand dollars if you can prove that Hitler ordered the extermination of the Jews,” etc., etc., which, of course, you cannot do and which, of course, is stupid to even ask. But, he wins over the room. Because, at the end, he’s offering his books for free —
Critic: So, we see her at the back, with no one there. Everyone has gone to him. Later on, he decides to sue her for libel, but he does that in British court, not in the American court. So, what happens is: Of course, she has to get a great team of lawyers across the pond to handle that. And, boy oh boy, does she. Now, they have to explain to her, though, the differences between our legal system here in America and the legal system in Great Britain: No, you’re not innocent until proven guilty there. So —
Critic: She has to prove that what she stated is true. And, then, we get that struggle, on until the end. We see who wins and the outcome of that.
Ref: Yeah, just look it up on Wikipedia. You know who wins. (laughs)
Critic: Yes, exactly. And, the music will tell you, too. (laughter) Let me tell you that.
Ref: It definitely will.
Critic: Now, for me, Ref, the writing and even the shots: This is all about clarity, everybody. It’s about clear storytelling. Everything is clear: The acting’s clear; the writing’s clear; again, the way it looks is clear. That was its strength. The acting — uh!
Ref: I mean, you’ve got the stars, here.
Critic: Yeah. I mean, look, can I just say? I was talking about Timothy Spall: the face. I mean, just his face is enough to guarantee him work as a character actor as long as he wants it. But, on top of that, he can act.
Critic: So, when he first shows up in the court — and he is defending himself, everybody — when he first does that, and they go, “Wow. I mean, yeah, he may be saying crazy, offensive stuff, but he’s riveting.” You believe it. You’re like, “Yeah, he actually is. He’s watchable.”
Ref: Yeah, that guy’s riveting.
Critic: And, then, his foil in the court, on her side, is Tom Wilkinson: perfect counterpoint; excellent, the way they go up against each other. So, when this movie shined, to me, is when it had lines on the page for the actors to go tit-for-tat, not just in court but even in the setup. When we got away from that, it was a little weaker to me. But you jump in, I don’t wanna say everything.
Ref: Well, you’ve done enough.
Critic: Oh. (laughter) OK. Thank you. I’ll be quiet. I’ve been chastised.
Ref: (laughing) No, you haven’t. (laughter) No, I just echo that. There’s really nothing to add there, because it’s a perfectly cast —
Ref: — movie. And, you know what? Maybe the writing isn’t as strong; maybe the music is a little bit much. But, you’re —
Critic: The music — Mm.
Ref: — not gonna walk away from this, kinda like, “Wow. That was a waste of my time.” Absolutely not. You’re gonna get a lot out of the performances.
Critic: Yeah. I mean, it’s a straightforward legal drama. It’s not anything new in that regard.
Critic: But, those performances are special. I think, because David Hare is a playwright, it shows.
Ref: Mm. Mm-hm.
Critic: Again, the clarity helps, because you know exactly what’s going on as it’s going on.
Critic: There’s no problem following the story, which I think was its strength, again. But, then, there’s a lack of nuance.
Critic: In particular, when it comes to Rachel Weisz’s lead character, Professor Lipstadt, there were just little problems with her. Because, as an audience, we’re ahead: We get it, and she doesn’t. So, I think a little more could’ve been written in there to bolster that, to make that make more sense. So, yeah. I mean, and there are some problems even with what was highlighted on the screen.
Critic: At the end, I thought that was a little weak. But, it kept my attention. Again, let’s say it once more: The acting!
Ref: Yeah, it’s stellar.
Critic: I mean, old boy, Andrew Scott, who was —
Critic: Moriarty in “Sherlock”: excellent. And, if, everybody, you wanna know what we mean by landing your lines, being in rhythm, all of that: This is the movie to watch, because they were hitting it out of the park. So, overall, for me, if you like legal dramas, you can definitely see this. You won’t be disappointed —
Ref: I don’t think you need to see it in the theater, though.
Critic: Yeah, that’s the thing, ‘cause the story isn’t really the strength: the way it’s told. It’s the presentation of the acting.
Ref: Yeah. Mm-hm.
Critic: So, if you go into a movie, going, “OK. I know I’m going to get that. I know it may not be surprising, but the acting’s great.” OK. Or, watch it at home, definitely.
Ref: Yeah. So, again, this comes out September 30. Listen, if you wanna check it out at the movie theater, go ahead and do that. But, guess what? It’s going to be just as good at home.