Welcome to New York

| August 11, 2015

Usually when a movie is based on a true story, you have to take that with a grain of salt.  Countless times, the people these films are based on come out and tell us all the inaccuracies.  The Blind Side and Captain Phillips stand out as a couple of recent examples of movies that took massive liberties with real events and still capitalized on the “based on a true story” cloak.  I tend to not care as long as the movie is good.  I know the events in The Social Network are heightened and stylized, exaggerating the characters’ real-life personalities and making Mark Zuckerberg come across as more of a villain, but it’s still an amazing movie so I don’t care that much.

Welcome to New York opens with an acknowledgement that while the court scenes are derived from actual court transcripts, the scenes that take place outside of court (which is most of the movie) are derived from the writer’s best guess.  There are only a couple of scenes that take place inside a courtroom and they mainly deal with the court’s ruling to allow bail, house arrest, or imprisonment during Deveraux’s (Gerard Depardieu; Life of Pi) trial considering his enormous wealth and ability to flee the country if he wants.

Deveraux is on trial because he is accused of the rape of a maid working at his hotel in New York City.  He’s very open about his womanizing and sex addiction throughout the movie, getting angry with his wife, Simone (Jacqueline Bisset; Bullet) for having the nerve to disapprove of his philandering.  Deveraux is not the most likeable or sympathetic character, and it made me uncomfortable knowing from the text at the beginning that he would get away with the crime because the judge couldn’t be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the crime.  The woman playing the maid (Pamela Afesi) gave an amazing performance of a woman traumatized by this incident and deciding to do something about it.  I’ve been teaching freshman composition at Western Michigan University for over 6 years now, and I’ve had students who write about being sexually assaulted.  I find the frequency of these papers disturbing because I feel like it’s a small percentage of my students who’ve experienced this decide to write about it, and almost none of them reported the incident to the police because they were ashamed or cynical that anything would happen.

Depardieu also gives a very good performance as the monstrous Deveraux.  He seems very natural and comfortable playing the role, and it’s the best I’ve seen from him maybe ever.  It’s interesting because it’s difficult to see things from his point of view.  He hides like a coward behind the guise of a sex addict and thinks that gives him the right to do whatever he wants without even trying to treat his condition through therapy.  He’s just a monster who takes what he wants because he’s a giant baby with unlimited money and no fear of any retribution.  it’s very uncomfortable.

Available now on Blu-ray and DVD from IFC Films.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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