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Home » Culture and Criticism

The Poppy-Fields Movie Couch Of Fame: The Firm

Submitted by on May 8, 2017 – 9:43 AM8 Comments

Paramount Pictures

Not just screwing, readers. All sorts of intimate acts, voting and whatnot.

I’ve never watched The Firm — although I do still use my The Firm workout DVDs, which has led to some confusion over the years — so let’s see what Kat has to say about her latest nomination. Take it away, KH.

This legal thriller from 1993, directed by Sidney Pollack, starring Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Holly Hunter, Ed Harris and David Strathairn, among others, is one of my all-time favorite films that never ceases to suck me in, no matter when it’s on or how many times I’ve seen it.

It’s one of the only film adaptations that I enjoy more than the book. The cast is top-notch. Casting Wilford Brimley as a bad guy was ingenious and it’s one of the last things that Gary Busey ever did where he seemed sane. It also has Cruise in one of his most charismatic roles, doing all of his Cruise staples: running weirdly; repeating dialog for emphasis; smiling goofily.

The movie tells the story of Mitch McDeere, a recent Harvard Law graduate who gets manipulated and seduced by a important, but EVIL Memphis law firm with connections to the Chicago Mob. Mitch has to devise a plan that will both satisfy the FBI who have forced him to help bring down the firm, and will also keep him, his career, and his family safe from the evil machinations of Bendini, Lambert & Locke.

  • lengthy? I was surprised when I looked it up to find that this film clocks in at 154 minutes. It’s never felt like a movie that’s over 2 ½ hours.
  • familiar/frequent? For a couple of years there, the sub-par “premium” cable channel FLIX was playing The Firm every single day. I would catch 20-minute chunks here and there on a regular basis.
  • classic/award-winner? While it was the largest-grossing R-rated movie of 1993, it only garnered two Oscar noms — A Best Supporting Actress nomination for Holly Hunter (who went on to win the Best Actress trophy that year but lost this one to her costar Anna Paquin for The Piano) and a Best Original Score nom for the great music by Dave Grusin (John Williams won it for Schindler’s List).
  • “Greetings, Professor Falken” (big payoff/long-shot victory a la WarGames)? The ending of this movie, with Mitch, wife, and dog moving on to a simpler life; Ray (especially Ray!) free and getting all of the open sky that he wants; while the bad guys get caught, the FBI gets what they need but not how they wanted it, and the Morolto brothers have a deal that works for them — all come together to be a very fulfilling and feel-good ending.
  • “Wanna have a catch?” (Pavlovian tear-jerk; anything with dads opens the ducts for this guy)? There are a handful of scenes from this film that always get to me and if I turn the movie on before they’re shown, I either have to stay planted where I am and watch them, or record them to watch later (!), even though I own the DVD and it’s streaming on various services; pretty much any and all scenes with David Strathairn as Ray, especially when Ed Harris’s Agent Tarrance lets Ray see his first sunset on the outside in a decade, and of course Ray and Tammy on the boat at the end. The other is a particularly cheesy scene between Cruise and Tripplehorn when they’re reunited at the end. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve used a small portion of the dialog in this scene as part of wedding vows that I’ve written. YES. You read that correctly. Sigh…
  • quote-fest? The aforementioned Cruise/Tripplehorn scene: “I’ve loved you all my life. Even before we met. Part of it wasn’t even you. It was just a promise of you.” Mitch, while visiting his brother Ray in prison: “Hey Ray, wouldn’t it be funny if I went to Harvard, you went to jail and we both ended up surrounded by crooks.” Firm head goon DeVasher, putting the screws to Mitch to keep him in line: “Not just screwing, Mitch. All sorts of intimate acts, oral and whatnot, that can be particularly hard for a trusting wife to forgive and IMPOSSIBLE to forget.” Hearing Wilford Brimley deliver this line, especially the way he says “oral and whatnot,” never fails to send me into fits of laughter.
  • caper-ish or -adjacent camaraderie? The ingenious plan that Mitch McDeere and his “team” (consisting of Tammy and his reluctant wife) enact to get Mitch not only clear of the Feds, but of the Chicago mob, and the murderous folks at his law firm, is well-done, tight, and entertaining to watch.
  • “forget you, melon farmer” (you own it, but will still watch bowdlerized TV verzh) There are your typical edits with the F-bombs being replaced with words like “freaking” and “forget,” but nothing outrageously dumb like “climber in the Alps.”

I’m not sure how much traction this one will get, but Kat’s argument has me hoping I happen upon the flick on basic cable sometime soon.

Second straight Strathairn pic up for a vote. Readers?

Should The Firm make partner in the Poppy-Fields Movie Couch Of Fame?

  • Sustained! (yes) (69%, 69 Votes)
  • Overruled! (no) (31%, 31 Votes)

Total Voters: 100

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[Update 6/5/17: Looks like this one’s guilty…of being poppyish!]

The Poppy-Fields Movie Couch Of Fame is here. To nominate your own PFM, email bunting at tomatonation dot com with a rundown of the criteria and your argument for why it deserves a cushion. If I use your entry, free loot shall be thine.




  • Cora says:

    Oh, HELL, yes. The budding romance between David Strathairn and Holly Hunter is the best!

    “I love your crooked little mouth.”

    “Chortle. Well, it’s not my best feature.”

    “Wow. Wull, what is?”

  • Sarah says:

    Hmmm, while I love this movie, particularly Busey and Hunter, and I love Brimley and Gene Hackman as the firm baddies (Hackman playing such a likable villain here, you kind of want to be friends with the guy and go scuba diving and rum-drinking with him on some island for a weekend, even knowing full well he’s done very bad things), I think it’s my annoyance with the changes made from the book (which I read first) that prevent me from giving this my vote!

    Is this a spot to inquire about the queue? I’ve been curious if I’d ever see my nominated movie (Steel Magnolias!) end up here!

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    We’re a mere 30 months behind in the queue. Should be any year now! …Sigh. I apologize. I’m hoping to get through a large portion of the backlog this summer.

  • Sean Gallagher says:

    I actually think Hackman is as good here as he was in his Oscar-winning performance in Unforgiven. The scenes between Hackman and Jeanne Tripplehorn aren’t in the book, but to me, they make the movie, especially their last scene, when he tells her, “Whatever it is, they did it to me a long time ago.”

  • Kat says:

    Thanks for humoring me and posting my submission for a vote. Strangely enough, this movie was just on Starz this weekend and I watched the last half Saturday night after getting home from a play. It’s still just as satisfying to me.

  • cayenne says:

    Everything about this film should be jamming my must-watch button, especially Hackman, Hunter, and Strathairn, and… nope. Cruise ruins it for me. All of those Cruise staples Kat mentions do not endear him to me – I just find them annoying. He never seems to actually be the character specific to the film: he’s Cruise lawyer-type, Cruise action-type, Cruise SF-type, and Cruise soldier-type, interchangeable within genre. Only a few deviate, and those are the ones I like him in. This one – not so much.

  • Jen S. 2.0 says:

    I’m on the fence. I’ve watched The Firm a million times, and it’s better than it has any right to be even with this cast and source material. I liked the book and the movie, which is unusual because I usually HAAAAATE any movie where I liked the book. I am very impatient when movies leave out the part of the book I really liked, or get it really wrong, and this one was no different. But that’s my problem, and I generally need to adjust my expectations of movies-from-books-I-liked. Here, as in many other cases, I really have to consider them to be related but separate entities. Cousins, not twins, if you will.


    I think my issues are in the payoff, tear-jerking, and classic / award elements. Was the big payoff anything special? He’s the star of the movie! It’s Tom Cruise circa 1993! Of course he’s going to take down the bad guys! But it was a little anticlimactic that he had to explain mail fraud to you (especially since that was very different from the book). The better payoff bit was when Mitch got to whip the sinister Wilford Brimley’s ass with a briefcase, heh. The get-back-together speech truly was excellent, but it was a little generic. Personally, the only quote I remember unprompted is Lamar Quin’s “Mitch! What can I do you for? Have a seat!”

    I don’t object to it going in the Hall, but are there better PFM classics out there?

  • Missicat says:

    This is a great movie…but my loathing for Tom Cruise eclipses even Gene Hackman. “Enemy of the State” would be a better Hackman movie to add – just my opinion.

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