Alan Dershowitz a brilliant professor of law is hired by wealthy socialite Claus von Bulow to attempt to overturn his two convictions for attempted murder of his extremely wealthy wife. Based on a true story the film concentrates not on the trial like other legal thrillers, but on the preparatory work that Dershowitz and his students put in as they attempt to disprove the prosecution's case and achieve the Reversal of Fortune of the title.Written by
Mark Thompson <email@example.com>
Ron Silver is Alan Dershowitz, the brilliant attorney who takes on Claus von Bulow's murder conviction on appeal in "Reversal of Fortune," a 1990 film starring Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons, beautifully directed by Barbet Schroeder. The film, of course, is based on the notorious von Bulow case. Sunny von Bulow was a socialite who became brain dead, and her husband, Claus, was accused of injecting her with insulin in an attempt to kill her. Sunny lived in a coma for nearly 28 years.
Sunny (Close) herself narrates the story, beginning when Claus (Irons) calls Dershowitz and asks him to take his appeal. Dershowitz takes the case and involves his law students (including a very young Felicity Huffman) in it.
It's all left pretty ambiguous - Sunny tells us that this is all we can know for now. Though von Bulow was found guilty of attempted murder at the first trial, Dershowitz won his appeal, and von Bulow was found not guilty at a second trial. After that, von Bulow moved to England. Since his daughter Cosima had taken his side in the case, Cosima's maternal grandmother disinherited her. In order to get her back in the will, von Bulow gave up any claim to Sunny's money.
Glenn Close is excellent as the unhappy Sunny - a woman beset by health and weight problems as well as drug addiction and her husband's infidelity. But the backbone of the story is the character of Claus, and here Jeremy Irons does a fantastic job and deservedly received an Oscar for it. He is cold, unemotional, snobbish, and really makes you wonder if he did it or not.
There are other good performances in the film, including that of Fisher Stevens as a supposed witness, the great Uta Hagen as Sunny's devoted maid, Christine Baranski as Claus' new girlfriend ("I told him, get the Jew," she tells Dershowitz), and Julie Hagerty as Alexandra Isles.
After the first trial, I transcribed an interview with one of the jurors, and boy, did he think Claus did it. Despite the second verdict, "did he or didn't he" is a shadow that will always hang over Claus von Bulow.
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