January 31, 2023

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‘Justice’ review: New Brett Kavanaugh doc revives old outrage

4 min read

The double meaning of the title in “Judgment” is certainly ironic. All the procedural problems — sexism, cronyism, favoritism, cowardice, mudslinging and good old-fashioned lying — shined through during Brett Kavanaugh’s harrowing 2018 Supreme Court appointment process. trial One quality was essentially missing. But it’s an irony that whenever the venerable “Judge Brett Kavanaugh” is used many will say it’s already there, and so if Doug Liman’s consistently well-intentioned documentary — the first from a director known for slick, action-oriented Hollywood dramas — is an incendiary one. , living up to its billing as a top-secret, last-minute Sundance addition, it was assumed there would be more to it than we already knew, some explosive new revelation or other.

Yet when Liman and writer-producer Amy Hardy provide a painstakingly wide line-up of talking heads, including psychologists, lawyers, journalists, a group of friends and associates of Kavanaugh’s accusers, and the accuser herself, Debbie Ramirez, new evidence—the kind of stimulus that could be another , less compromising and less rushed investigations – in short supply. Most promising are excerpts from a recorded conversation with respected bipartisan lobbyist Max Stier, which not only corroborates Ramirez’s account but also suggests her experience at the Yale party where Kavanaugh exposed himself to her may have been worse than she thought. . Stier also outlines another case of Kavanagh-related sexual misconduct, but its force is diminished by the alleged victim’s refusal to let her name be used, and possibly Stier’s refusal to participate in his own film despite allowing the tape. the game

Such corrections contribute to “judgment” being a purely one-sided affair. It is hardly surprising that Kavanaugh himself refused to appear, accompanied by his supporters who approached him. But this makes the film an exercise in preaching to the choir, placing it at a great distance from the people it might seek to persuade. Many who disagree with Limon’s underlying righteous indignation will likely see “Justice,” and anyone who hasn’t followed the hearings closely enough to share his view won’t discover much they don’t already know.

Formally, the movie mixes talking-head footage with standard-issue exteriors of competent, relevant office buildings and representative public monuments rather than inspiration. “Judgment” is buoyed by Laura Karpman’s conspiracy-laden, “Law & Order”-style score. It does have an odd development though: a rather nondescript first shot in which Liman himself appears on camera for just one moment, settling himself on an uncomfortable couch in front of an interviewer whose face we don’t see. He asks her why she chose to tell this story — a question Liman never answers, either here or in the next film.

At one point in the exchange, however, we realize that the interviewee is none other than Kavanaugh’s most famous accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Dr. Ford will not appear on screen again except for extensive excerpts from the TV coverage of the hearing, a specific choice, perhaps a tacit admission that his credibility as a witness to his own attempted rape is not in question. But if that sentimental omission means that “justice” will be less about the accused than the accused, it is misleading. A good portion of the film’s middle is devoted to Ramirez’s interview, during which the increasingly anguished woman walks through the incident again in detail so forensic as to seem intrusive, at least for frustrated viewers forced to spend more of their precious minutes doing so. Thinking about Brett Kavanaugh’s gender.

Perhaps the main problem, though, is one of opportunity with Limon, in the absence of a bombshell revelation, his focus scattered across disjointed advocacy, investigative follow-up, FBI exposés, and archival summaries. Finally, with just a glance, he produced a pen-portrait of Kavanaugh, from high school jock to associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. It’s based on the man’s greatest hits, “I Like Beer” to “Weak Stomach” to his reputation for “Ralphing,” to his operatic fury at hearings, aptly described by one commentator as “Look how angry I get. ”

At best — like when it became clear that Kavanaugh lied to himself during his confirmation when he claimed he only learned about Ramirez’s allegations. The New Yorker — “Judgment” retools the anti-Cavanagh side by pulling a more coherent narrative from the blizzard detailed by threatening observers at the time with snow-blindness.

At its worst, the doc unnecessarily suspends arguments about the credibility of the accusers’ accounts. Do we really need to listen to a clinical psychologist explain to us why partial, fragmented recollections of abuse incidents are a hallmark of credible victim testimony and not, as it was made by Republican questioners during the hearings, fabricated evidence or mistaken identity? Despite earnest efforts to account for an important and profoundly consequential turn in modern American jurisprudence, “Justice” can offer no good reason why, only a few years later and without significant new news to justify it, we must reread its memory. A collective recent horror-show that, in Dr. Ford’s famous words, is already “indefinite in the hippocampus.”

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