Confirmation full movie review - not great, but its story speaks volumes
The bottom line with Confirmation is that it's not complex as far as the plot goes, and this is particularly if you know the history.
In fall of 1991 Thurgood Marshall retired from SCOTUS, and, feeling the pressure to nominate a black man to the court, Bush picked Clarence Thomas, a man who many felt wasn't qualified for the court (as Jeffrey Wright's character says at one point, "I have students who are better qualified than Clarence Thomas"). But when asked by someone from Senator Biden's office about whether or not he should be confirmed, Anita Hill couldn't hold back and be silent and told the truth: she was sexually harassed, as far as having to hear vulgar talk about sex (i.e. "Long Dong Silver" is a thing in a court of public record, I mean Jesus), and asked out on multiple occasions. It got out to the press, she had to go testify, as did Thomas, and all this before a seemingly immovable date for the man's confirmation.
This all could have made for a compelling mini-series, or an even longer movie. What is a little disappointing about is that this is probably the best this kind of movie could be, but it's still not quite good enough, or I should say that the detail isn't exactly strong enough. Mostly I found that the depiction of Clarence Thomas not exactly weak but basic: for such a man who I may find reprehensible (from before and during his 25 past years on the court), Wendell Pierce gives Thomas as a person, and character in this story, some dignity, and Anita Wright as Clarence Thomas' wife as well. But what about anything else aside from his indignation and sad faces? What else was/is there to Thomas?
Maybe that just wasn't the focus, and director Fumiyama (of last year's surprise critical hit Dope), wanted to keep it on the politics and especially the media - many figures who you might recognize from CNN and elsewhere in cable news pop up as younger selves - certainly keeps a good eye on that. But what does make an impact and what is certainly good to look past the flaws here, are a) Kerry Washington's performance, which is so unwavering in making Anita Hill a figure of sympathy but also aching empathy, completely stripping anything else except this woman and having to put up being solid in front of the committee. And b) how the story and movie treats the whole aspect of how equal rights were not there in 1991, and may still not be (or, to put it another way, despite the changes the struggle is ongoing), for women in this country.
Like the recent People vs OJ series, we get a story that seems to deal a lot in race - Thomas' "High tech lynching" comment that struck an emotional chord for some but was seen as being disingenuous by others - and yet it's really about how women fit it, or certainly do not, in a world full of men. Images of women and how they talk and react, every little thing that they say, is under the kind of scrutiny here that men just don't have to face, at least not to this level. Confirmation is about the representation of a woman's image in politics, in the media, in the public at large, and what that does when up against a "street fight" as one of the raging white male Republican senators says. You can read a lot into what the hearings, as seen in this story, say about the national public character, and yet it's displayed for us to see in those hearings, and the behind-the-scenes fights and digging for dirt via the Republican senators, as opposed to spelled out all the time.
Confirmation doesn't stretch entirely too far for it to be great, or quite on the level of Recount or Game Change as far as HBO original movies about hot-button/controversial political stories in this country from the modern age, but within what it tries to do, and from the acting from all the players that is never less than convincing (Kinnear, who plays a rather unsympathetic Senator Biden, who screwed up things in the hearing just as far as scheduling people to testify, is one of those), it works. I'd even watch it again if just to see how Washington pulls off the majority of her scenes.