The Judge is another predictable film where complicated father-son relationships are strained at the beginning of the film and we all learn a valuable lesson by the end. Everyone is a little bit angry and a little bit intense and a little bit on edge, and the fact that the father (Robert Duvall), who has served as a judge in town for his entire career, is accused of murdering a man who has just gotten out of jail who he sentenced in the first place. His estranged son (Robert Downey Jr.) comes to town to bury his mom who has just died, and he wants to serve as his father's lawyer for the trial. Dysfunctional relationships and the insidious nature of secrets hidden are at the heart of this story.
Watching the preview of the film, it looks like it's going to be wonderful. It has intensity, an amazing cast, and serious themes. The problem is that even a superb actor can't rise above what is basically a trite script. There's a challenging marriage and custody dispute as a subplot that unfortunately doesn't do anything to make the narrative more compelling. It's a movie you really want to like, but at best it's mediocre.
Robert Duvall was good - as he always is - but this nomination seems to be as much a career achievement award for consistent superlative acting as it is for this particular film. I could list 5 actors who sit more appropriately in this year's Supporting Actor nominee list without trying (and see other blogs for other "robbed" potential nominees!). We've seen Duvall do this ornery guy before, this was not a new exploration of identity for the actor, and while I love seeing him on film, I dispute the validity of this nomination.
If you must see The Judge, I recommend waiting for Netflix or cable. It's not a waste of an evening, it's just not worth it to invest movie theatre money.
See the trailer here: