During the weekend between the two political conventions, I viewed Confirmation, the HBO Films dramatization of an earlier politically-charged time. Kerry Washington produced and acted in the made-for-TV movie, taking on the role of Anita Hill. Hill was a law professor at the University of Oklahoma, thrust into the national spotlight when her claims of sexual harassment against GOP Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas (played here by Wendell Pierce) were made public.
Hill was called to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which at this point of the early 1990s was all middle-aged white men. Through a broad focus, Confirmation shows us the reactions of Thomas and his wife (poor Martha from The Americans), the machine behind his nomination, the Democratic staffers who find Hill in the first place, the men on the Senate committee, another victim (Jennifer Hudson) treated unkindly by the process, and the support system behind Ms. Hill. Frankly, this decision means the story plays very scattered, with so many characters it’s a challenge to remember who’s playing who.
As someone who vaguely remembers the controversy at the time — and recently watched Anita, Freida Lee Mock’s documentary profile of Ms. Hill — the hearing scenes seem interminable and redundant. Perhaps a viewer completely unfamiliar with this true story might not feel that way. But for this viewer, director Rick Famuyiwa’s film has so much rehashing and dependence on media stories of the time that it gets tedious.
In rare moments (all involving Kerry Washington as Hill), we see glimpses of the film’s potential greatness, almost submerged by the redundancy and archived media overload. Washington has Hill’s cadence down, as well as her reticence and thoughtful consideration. Washington is phenomenal in this role requiring emotional restraint, and she’s been nominated for an Emmy because of it. I knew what was coming and felt heartbroken (yet hopeful) at the end, anyway. The strength of Washington’s performance is what makes Confirmation worth enduring.
Special Features and Extras: Actors Washington and Pierce each have short videos discussing the historical impact of the Hill/Thomas hearings. Character spots are also included.