By Guest Reviewer: Donna Ledbetter
When I think about Thurgood Marshall, my first thoughts are of his involvement in Brown v. Board of Education. Then I remember that he was a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. But hardly ever do I recall that before he became the historical figure that I see him as today, he was just a man doing the tedious, often thankless work of social justice.
In the film Marshall, we are reminded that decades before Brown v Board, Thurgood Marshall was a lone lawyer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He traveled throughout the country representing people who had been wrongly accused of crimes simply because of the color of their skin. He was a husband and a father with real-world concerns that extended beyond the courtroom. Marshall attempts to humanize the real man’s iconic figure by retelling Thurgood Marshall’s (Chadwick Boseman) involvement in the rape trial of Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson), a wealthy Connecticut socialite, and her accused, a black man who was also her chauffer, Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown).
However, due to Connecticut law, Marshall wasn’t permitted to try the case alone. Local attorney Samuel Friedman (Josh Gad), a Jewish man, was ordered to handle the case alongside Marshall. The film dramatizes their relationship as they conquer injustice together amid the backdrop of Jim Crow, white nationalism, and World War II in Disney-like fashion. For all its difficult subject matter, Marshall is just a feel-good film.
Given how much hurt gets wrapped up in dialogue about the American civil rights era, this film could have been directed in a number of ways. But instead of leaving viewers feeling angry, Marshall makes you feel informed more than anything else. Your eyes are opened to seeing Thurgood Marshall as the young, everyday lawyer of his time working to change the system one case at a time. You may even walk away feeling inspired, understanding that, as Thurgood Marshall’s life proves, it is the little bit that you do each day to change the world that can lead you to making the biggest difference.