This Masterpiece Theater Mini-Series of “Mr. Selfridge” produced by ITV is a tour de force of excellent performances of the actors, the finesse of drama scripts, gorgeous costumes, and classically elegant settings coordinated as truthfully as possible. It chronicles Harry Gordon Selfridge’s business adventures from the onset of establishing Selfridges & Co in 1908 until his farewell to his labor of love twenty years afterwards.
From Episode I of Series 1 to Episode 10 of Series 4 (Final Season), we get to see a man named Harry Gordon Selfridge (1958-1947) who was something of a Napoleon Bonaparte knowing no word in his dictionary for “Impossible.” We see the man build a one-of-a-kind department store in London’s Oxford Street as an adventurous American tradesman against the British aristocratic chauvinism. Selfridge was a man who set a standard of modern department store; by placing the cosmetic/perfume counters on the lobby, Selfridge intended to sweeten the atmosphere of the floor in attempt to use it as a magnet for passers-by, especially women. In effect, Selfridge broke down the class-stratified fashion wall guarded by the rich/privileged by democratizing the luxurious items and making them accessible to common people as well.
Moreover, the ace portrayal of Selfridge would/could not be possible were it not for the fine acting of Jeremy Piven whose quintessential American accent doubled with inescapable American can-do attitudes triumphs over the transatlantic cultural differences in working with the British peers. The viewer will be left with a feeling of heartfulness of the characters upon finishing all of the episodes in this series and cannot help but applaud to Mr. Selfridge for his entrepreneurial effervescence and Mr. Piven for portraying the man in a stellar performance that evokes both pathos and respect.
This is not a movie about a courtroom drama displayed by the verbal theatrics that we can easily see in today’s legal dramas. It’s a movie about a man’s redeeming of his honor tainted by his self-destructive resort to alcoholism and disorientation in life pursuant to the destruction of his youthful idealism as a novice lawyer. Once bitten, twice diffident, the lawyer’s god-sent chance to turn over a new leaf in his later chapters of life comes to him when he is asked by a woman to represent her sister, a young woman whose life is forever bedridden in a coma as a result of inadvertent administration of anesthetics by doctors at a Catholic hospital. As the lawyer works on the case for a trial, he regains his confidence, hope, and meaning for his own life.
Paul Newman’s excellent performance as the lawyer struggling with his own life is the gem of the movie, rendering the verisimilitude of the character that evokes the pathos. His trademarks of fierce blue eyes that seem to be the only distinct features of his weary, forlorn face symbolize a suppressed light of intelligence, bludgeoned confidence, and vanquished hope, all of which still struggle to be liberated from self-imprisonment at any moment. The viewer will never fail to notice the feelings and the emotions Newman’s character tries to subdue or express by his brilliant method acting.
“The Verdict” is indeed a thought-provoking movie about the human nature and a light of hope that we all have in our lifetime. Without any courtroom theatrics full of sensational machinations and exchanging of fiery tirades between the lawyers of the opposite parties, this movie proves how a well written script based upon a realistic subject matter that elicits universal empathy in concert with the excellent performances of fine actors could work a wonder.