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Reversal of Fortune
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Reversal of Fortune More at IMDbPro »

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32 out of 37 people found the following review useful:

How Good Is This Film?..."You Have No Idea!"

Author: peacham from Pa.
15 May 2002



Ever since the film premiered in 1990 Jeremy Iron's portrayal of the Aristocratic Claus Von Bulow has been etched in my memory. Iron's has without question created one of the most brilliantly layered historical characterizations to ever grace the screen.He gets to the heart of the haughty Von Bulow and brings us as close to liking the man as anyone ever could.His performance rightly won Him an Oscar for Best Actor. Just as engaging is Ron Silver's driven and hyper Alan Dershowitz. his performance of the great trail lawyer is facinatingly accurate. Having seen Dershowitz speak and meeting him afterwards it is very clear that Silver was able to capture even the smallest details of the man's movements,vocal inflections and dynamic rhetoric(Dersowitz himself claimed Silver used a tad too many hand gestures however!)

The supporting cast is equally strong. Glenn Close narrates the film as the comatose Sunny Von Bulow and appears in flashback during the events that lead to her coma. She captures Sunny's selfishness as well as her vulnerability. The great Uta Hagan appears as Sunny's maid and protector and give a performance worthy of her reputation.

Barbet Schroeder slickly directs the film,not as a linier plot but as a series of flashbacks,moments and current incidents. This is one of the few films that I cannot find a single flaw in.For direction,plot,characterization,writing..and Jeremy Iron's wonderful performance this film is an absolute 10!

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25 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Fascinating character studies

8/10
Author: Dennis Littrell from United States
23 July 2003

Striking, if sometimes creepy, performances by Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons highlight this unevenly directed take on the Claus Von Bulow story of the degenerate rich adapted from the book by Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz. Dershowitz, who loves being in the limelight almost as much as he loves the law, took on the task of saving Claus Von Bulow from prison for the attempted murder of his rich wife initially as a means of raising money to help him in his pro bono cases. The rather heavy-handed manner in which we are advised of this should not detract from Dershowitz's work. The irony is that as the case developed Dershowitz became persuaded that Claus was innocent.

Whether Dershowitz convinced himself of Von Bulow's innocence to assuage a possibly guilty conscience is a good question. Remember Dershowitz is the guy who said after the O.J. Simpson trial (he was one of Simpson's lawyers) that he didn't know whether Simpson was guilty or not. While that may be a good stance for a defense attorney, it is an insincere one for the public figure that Dershowitz has become.

Starring as Dershowitz is Ron Silver in an uneven performance that at times made me think of Gabe Kaplan doing a young and uncomedic Groucho Marx. I wonder if Dershowitz was entirely flattered.

Director Barbet Schroeder (Barfly 1987; Single White Female 1992) uses several points of view to tell the story, including a voice-over from Glenn Close's Sunny Von Bulow as she lies comatose, but also from recollections by Jeremy Irons' Claus Von Bulow. We see some scenes twice, colored by the differing points of view. This technique is entirely appropriate since what really happened is far from clear to this day. It is Claus Von Bulow's fortune that was reversed. Whether the first two juries or the third were right is something Schroeder leaves for the audience to determine.

But make no mistake about it: the heart of the movie is Jeremy Irons' Oscar-winning performance. His subtle artistry based on a deep conception (true to life or not) of the aristocratic and Germanic Claus allowed him to create a persona that is cold and aloft, yet somehow sympathetic. The contrast with Silver's Brooklyn-born hyper-energetic Dershowitz made for some good cinematic chemistry, although sometimes it came across like nice Jewish boy defends a vampire.

Glenn Close's flawless rendition of the idle, drug-befouled Sunny reminds us once again that she is a great actress. Unfortunately I don't think Schroeder spent as much time and energy as he should have with the people who played Dershowitz's law students. They seemed amateurish and unconvincing in just about every scene. And there were too many of them--law students, that is. Some distillation of intent, and more directorial guidance might have helped.

Nicholas Kazan's script has a number of good lines in it, not the least of which is this: Dershowitz: "You are a very strange man." Claus Von Bulow: "You have no idea." Also nice was Von Bulow's observation after they are seated in the restaurant and after the waiter has called him "Doctor" Von Bulow: "When I was married to Sunny, we never got this table. Now, two injections of insulin and I'm a doctor." Indeed it is partly Kazan's snappy, comedic and self-revelatory lines that humanize Claus Von Bulow's character and persuade us that he could very well be innocent.

While I like Dershowitz's self-serving style and his confidence, what I admire most about the man is his realistic conception of the defense attorney's role in our society and his idea of what makes a good lawyer; that is, a good lawyer is one who recognizes not only that every person deserves the best defense their resources allow, but that he himself deserves to defend those with the best resources.

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)

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27 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

Good film, Great Performance

Author: Chris Tomlin from Virginia
10 February 1999

The spooky yet amusing performance turned in by Jeremy Irons is worth watching all by itself. As an added bonus, the film is quite good as well. "Reversal of Fortune" thrives on its deft pacing, which keeps its relatively action-free plot interesting until the end. To the film's credit, the mystery is never fully solved; the viewer must ultimately decide the truth for himself. A treat for any thoughtful filmgoer.

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18 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Taut drama, great acting

8/10
Author: kjff from Minneapolis, Minnesota
20 June 2005

This one is a big winner! Based on the true story of the trial of Claus von Buelow and conviction of murdering his socialite wife and rich heiress, and famed attorney Alan Dershowitz's handling of his appeal.

This movie takes a fascinating topic, a fine book and terrific acting, mixes them all together and bakes a winner. But it is the acting that is supreme.

Another wonderful performance by Glenn Close (is there nothing she can't play) but an absolute smasher by Jeremy Irons as von Buelow. I've seen this movie several times (and read the book) and I still can't make a judgment on whether von Buelow did it. Irons' portrayal of von Buelow is that good.

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12 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Cold, and cruel and the way of the world...

10/10
Author: MarieGabrielle from United States
27 June 2006

That is Sonny von Bulow's narrative as she describes the marriage between her and Claus, an infamous fortune seeker, who had made his way in the world the old fashioned way- he inherited it, by marriage.

This is an intriguing story because it is based on truth, and both Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons give stellar performances. It is trite but true; money has not brought happiness to either of these people. Sonny has apparently led a life of depression, eating disorders, alcoholism and prescription drug abuse. Claus was probably no stranger to similar vices, as well as episodic infidelity. It may have been even more interesting had the screenplay delved into their earlier years, lifestyles in Europe and world travel, living a hedonistic life.

In this case, murder is a nebulous concept. Claus von Bulow insists he is innocent, yet his many assertions to attorney Alan Dershowitz indicate otherwise. von Bulow is calculating, mysterious, and cold. Does this indicate guilt? The audience is never completely informed. That is what makes the story so real. As in real life, when murderers are set free, one may never know the truth. There is also a good side-story where Dershowitz is attempting to save two young black males from a death sentence. He does their case "pro bono", for the sake of justice, whereas von Bulow's case, as Dershowitz proclaims, is paying for their defense.

Overall, this is a tragic story which leaves many grey areas, one wonders how the children, Alex and Alah have survived this debacle. Another viewpoint would be an interesting screenplay. 10/10.

Dershowitz is portrayed by Ron Silver, who projects a realistic image.

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

A delightful movie. Bravo!

8/10
Author: cdavis-6
23 October 2000

I really enjoyed "Reversal of Fortune." It was a wonderful, satiric (take your pick: black comedy/crime drama/mystery). The acting was tremendous. Jeremy Irons was fantastic and his performance was definitely Oscar-worthy. The movie itself pushed the lines between arguing the truth and arguing the facts. Although the movie was never clear on whether Claus was in fact guilty or not, the movie was actually more enjoyable because of its ambiguity. The tactics used by Dershowitz were very convincing and plausible. One thing I must complain about was the addition of Sarah's relationship with Alan into the film, which wasn't very well done. Otherwise, fun for the whole family, if your family is a sardonic, evil, emotionless wreck.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

"What do you give a wife that has everything? ..... (long pause).... a shot of insulin." - Claus Von Bulow

7/10
Author: Michael Margetis (pmargetis@cox.net) from United States
14 September 2005

Barbet Schroeder's darkly comic murder mystery 'Reversal of Fortune' was actually better than I thought it would be. It surrounds a social climber Claus Von Bulow (Jeremy Irons - Lolita) who is Charged and convicted with the double counts of attempted murder on his obnoxious and drunken wife Sunny Von Bulow (Glenn Close - Fatal Attraction) with insulin. Claus needs a lawyer to appeal so he contacts a stereo-typical Jewish lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, played incredibly by Ron Silver. Alan takes on Claus' case even though he believes him to be guilty and Alan and his team try to prove him innocent. Glenn Close gives a small but engrossing performance in this as the not so sympathetic victim while Jeremy Irons steals the entire film with his creepy and neurotic yet brilliant and amazing performances as the could-be murderer Claus. The screenplay is really solid and although kind of predictable offers nice thrills and very dark humor. 'Reversal of Fortune' rightfully won Jeremy Irons the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role. If you want something kind of out-there be sure to rent 'Reversal of Fortune' one of these days. Grade: B

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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Remarkable performance by Irons

Author: Arkaan Semere (alistair72@hotmail.com)
16 August 1999

Claus von Bulow was accused and convicted of twice attempting to kill his wife, Sunny von Bulow. The film is about the appeal

Nicholas Kazan takes a huge risk, and has Sunny von Bulow (Glenn Close, who is marvelous) narrate the story, while in a coma. It pays off beautifully. We learn the lifestyle in which they inhabit, there daily arguments about Claus' "extra-curricular" activities, work, etc. In comes Alan Dershowitz (Ron Silver), who is hired by Claus to do the appeal.

Fascinating and provocative, we see the way Ron Silver tries to find out if his client is guilty or innocent. The cast is a treat to watch, down to even the smallest roles. But it's Jeremy Irons who dominates with his chilling performance.

By the end of the movie, we don't really care whether or not Claus is guilty, a testament to Barbet Schroeder, and Nicholas Kazan.

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11 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Did He Or Didn't He?

8/10
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
13 May 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This was a movie, and based a true-life story, that left a lot of people puzzled. Did he - Claus von Bulow - murder his wife, or didn't he? After watching this film a decade ago, I still wasn't sure.

The story is a fascinating one and the movie is well-done, too. Was the story biased? Probably since it comes from a book written by attorney shown in the movie but, as someone who mainly knows the story only from this film, I am not qualified to say how much of this is truth, fiction and/or bias. Nonetheless, I am usually intrigued with character studies, another reason I liked this movie.

I only know the story was interesting and Jeremy Irons as "von Bulow;" and Glenn Close his wife "Sunny," and Ron Silver as attorney "Alan Dershowitz," were all fascinating to me, all turning in fine performances. It's ironic that Silver, who played mostly sleazy characters in this timer period, played a law professor. It was appropriate casting. Irons won an Oscar for his effort and is obviously the focus of the story.

The only thing I warn viewers is not to be duped by the message in there that you can't ever know the truth, everything is relative, etc. This is nonsense and the kind of psycho-babble defense lawyers love to spew. What's sad is that all the education in the world, Dershowitz proves here, means nothing if you don't realize there ARE absolutes in the world. Yes, Alan, murder is wrong: that's a black-and-white issue. I'll bet this lawyer would have loved to be on the O.J. Simpson trial, too, and would have had no qualms helping his get a "not guilty" verdict.

So, enjoy the fine performances in this film but take things with a grain of salt because this story is definitely biased.

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Money doesn't buy happiness.

8/10
Author: wardkm from West Lafayette, IN
23 October 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is one of the better dramas based on a true story because it portrays the fact that money doesn't buy happiness. The movie was about the appeal of Claus von Bulow who was convicted of attempting to murder his wife, Sunny. The movie only eluded to Claus's innocence and never revealed the events that actually took place. Although there were speculations about how Sunny fell into her coma, the truth will never be known. The truth is only relative and favorable to the storyteller. The purpose of the appeal was to show that Claus couldn't be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Alan Dershowitz, Claus's appeal lawyer, did this by disproving the theory of the prosecutors. The reason Alan Dershowitz took the case wasn't because he believed Claus was guilty or innocent. He defended Claus because he disagreed with the idea that the wealthy can hire their own prosecutors, which allows them to decide what evidence should be used. Dershowitz hired a team of people to disprove every aspect of the prosecutors theory on how Claus attempted to murder Sunny. In conclusion, this was a good movie because it allows the viewer to convict or acquit Claus according to their speculations.

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