Rachel Weisz is winning 2016. With the release of Denial, she has starred in four major films this year. While she gave heartbreaking performances in the fictional climates of The Lobster and The Light Between Oceans, Denial places her real life character in a public space: the courtroom. Deborah E. Lipstadt is an accomplished but brusque writer and academic whose work focuses on dismantling the arguments of Holocaust deniers. Along comes David Irving (Timothy Spall), the British author of Hitler’s War and the biggest denier of all. He pillories Lipstadt during one of her lectures, captures her disgruntled response on video, and proceeds to sue her for libel in Great Britain. Written by the British playwright and screenwriter David Hare (The Hours, The Reader), the film occupies itself with the cultural clash between her American chutzpah and the stoic reserve and careful strategizing of her British legal team. And though you may be feeling resistant to yet another legal drama, a fact-finding trip to Auschwitz underpins the movie with an unshakeable sense of gravitas. The direction, by Mick Jackson (The Bodyguard), can be heavy-handed, like the image of a barbed wire fence shedding a raindrop tear. Overall though, the film successfully legitimizes a hard-working, quiet intelligence over the belligerence of an attention-seeking bigot. Any parallels to this year’s election are entirely coincidental.
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