Jodie Foster won her first Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award for her performance as rape victim Sarah Tobias in The Accused. It’s easy to see why.
Considered brutal and shocking in its day, it was a triumph for ex-Fox president turned independent producer Sherry Lansing, who had been told repeatedly that no-one would pay to see a film about rape.
While hardly box-office gold (it did $US32 Million), it was well received critically and, to this day, remains the definitive cinematic discussion of rape.
Set in 1987, the gang rape of Sarah Tobias takes place in a seedy bar. Given Sarah’s lowly status as a feisty tart with a salty tongue, her lawyer, Deputy DA Kathryn Murphy (McGillis), plea bargains for the rapists to be jailed for ‘reckless endangerment’ – a crime that carries the same prison sentence, but not the stigma of rape.
It also means that the criminals can be released early, rather than serving the full term.
It is the second trial – of the men who witnessed the rape and cheered on the participants rather than coming to Sarah’s aid – that becomes the crux of the film’s action.
Jodie Foster’s performance is astonishing, with her running the gamut from sleazy trailer trash to shattered victim, tortured wastrel, defiant fighter and bruised and battered heroine.
McGillis is also excellent as the cool professional who unleashes pure rage at the injustice of a legal system and a world in which a woman can “ask for it” and has to prove why she didn’t deserve to be physically and mentally destroyed by rape.
A tremendous film, but incredibly uncomfortable to watch.
The Accused was inspired by a real-life 1983 rape case in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Attorney Ted Paulson
Peter Van Norden
Terry David Mulligan