22 March 1999 | David N.
Solid film that never overcomes quirk factor
I saw this film as "The Advocate," not that it matters, but just so you know. The place where I rented it didn't have the original box, so I had NO idea what the film was about. I was, um, surprised.
Colin Firth plays a 15th-century lawyer (called an advocate) who moves to the country from Paris. He wants to get in touch with the real essence of the law, defending the common folk and such. As it turns out, animals can be charged with crimes as well. Poor Colin finds himself defending rats and a pig in open court. (I could make a really obvious crack about the parallels to the practices of modern law, but that's a tad crass. Truthful, but crass.)
The film's claim that the secret of the movie is along the same lines of "The Crying Game" is surely meant as a joke. Still, the movie spends too much dwelling on the absurdity of defending animals and not enough time finding a story to tell. There is some twaddle about defending a beautiful gypsy woman's pig in a murder trial, but it is never gripping or, sadly, interesting.
The acting make up for the triteness of the story, though. Firth is solid and has some great scenes with the Seigneur who owns the land and the village Firth comes to reside in. There is also a small appearance by the wonderful, underrated, nuanced, subtle IAN HOLM~ as a shady priest. The cast raises the film from the status of sideshow curiosity.
While the "Crying Game" style secret is a reference to the murder case that is (ultimately) shuffled off to the side of the movie, I have no problem revealing another big secret of "The Advocate": the sow is really a hog!!!