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Reversal of Fortune

Reversal of Fortune

3.0 2
Director: Barbet Schroeder, Glenn Close, Jeremy Irons, Ron Silver

Cast: Barbet Schroeder, Glenn Close, Jeremy Irons, Ron Silver


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This film is a darkly humorous, determinedly ambiguous adaptation of Alan Dershowitz's book about his successful legal appeal of Claus von Bulow's conviction for the attempted murder of his wife, Martha "Sunny" von Bulow. Sunny (Glenn Close) -- who remains in a "persistent vegetative state" resulting from a suspicious injection of insulin -- narrates the film,


This film is a darkly humorous, determinedly ambiguous adaptation of Alan Dershowitz's book about his successful legal appeal of Claus von Bulow's conviction for the attempted murder of his wife, Martha "Sunny" von Bulow. Sunny (Glenn Close) -- who remains in a "persistent vegetative state" resulting from a suspicious injection of insulin -- narrates the film, summarizing the first murder trial, which ended with Claus (Jeremy Irons) convicted and released on bail pending appeal. Claus approaches Harvard Law professor Dershowitz (Ron Silver) to handle the case. Working with a small group of law students recruited from his classes, Dershowitz presents sufficient new evidence to cast doubt as to Claus' guilt and the veracity of the star witness, her maid. Jeremy Irons' extraordinary, Oscar-winning performance dominates the film. He plays the role of Claus with a alternatively pompous, aloof snobbishness and an engagingly enigmatic, kinky, sly humor. Barbet Schroeder was also nominated for an Academy Award for his extraordinary, off-beat, direction of this sophisticated, exceptionally intelligent legal drama. Reversal of Fortune with its sharp, witty, Oscar-nominated screenplay by Nicholas Kazan is unusual in its understanding that legal guilt and moral culpability are not the same thing -- making for an unusually provocative tragicomedy of bad manners and bad behavior among the rich.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Painstakingly detailed yet tantalizing in its ambiguity, Reversal of Fortune dramatizes the real-life case of Claus von Bulow. Von Bulow (portrayed by Jeremy Irons in an Academy Award-winning performance) is an aristocratic European emigré who was convicted of the attempted murder of his wife, New York socialite Sunny von Bulow (Glenn Close), who plunged into a coma from which she has never awakened. Director Barbet Schroeder (Single White Female) doesn't concern himself overmuch with the original trial but instead lavishes his attentions on the appeal of von Bulow's conviction, an effort led by idealistic attorney Alan Dershowitz (superbly impersonated by Ron Silver). Irons portrays von Bulow as an inscrutable snob for whom his defenders have little affection. Nonetheless, Dershowitz and his impassioned legal team chip away at the prosecution's flawed case, and the chronicling of their efforts becomes the crux of Reversal's narrative. Flashbacks illuminate some of the events leading up to Sunny's coma-inducing overdose, and Close is riveting in the small but pivotal role of the doomed socialite. But while Schroeder's film accurately portrays the outcome of Dershowitz's appeal, it leaves many questions unanswered -- and the suave, icy von Bulow is just as much an enigma at the fade-out as he was at the fade-in. Part courtroom thriller, part intellectual exercise, Reversal of Fortune is guaranteed to grip viewers from its opening moments and hold them spellbound through the closing credits. Fascinating, too, is Schroeder's and screenwriter Nicholas Kazan's detailed discussion of their film and the real-life case in the audio commentary on the DVD.
All Movie Guide
Thanks to Jeremy Irons' performance, Reversal of Fortune is less a conventional murder mystery than a trenchant social satire, a scathing study of a morally corrupt upper class. Working from a book by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, writer Nicholas Kazan gives the film a peculiar, witty tone, avoiding obvious social commentary. Barbet Schroeder's direction is solid, but the film owes its success more to the outstanding performances of its leads. Apart from Irons' Oscar-winning work, Ron Silver and Glenn Close are also terrific as Dershowitz and the spaced-out Sunny von Bulow. Schroeder was previously best known as a producer of some of the best films of the French New Wave.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Archives
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Closed Caption; Commentary by director Barbet Schroeder and screenwriter Nicholas Kazan

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Glenn Close Sunny Von Bulow
Jeremy Irons Claus Von Bulow
Ron Silver Alan M. Dershowitz
Annabella Sciorra Sarah
Uta Hagen Maria
Fisher Stevens David Marriott
Christine Baranski Andrea Reynolds
Mano Singh Raj
Felicity Huffman Minnie
Alan Pottinger Chuck
Sarah Fearon Ala von Auersberg
Jad Mager Alexander von Auersberg
Howard Feuer Actor
Julie Hoggerly Actor
Jack Gilpin Peter MacIntosh
Stephen Mailer Elon Dershowitz
Christine Dunford Ellen
Johann Carlo Nancy
Mitchell Whitfield Curly
Tom Wright Jack
Gordon Joseph Weiss Tom Berman
Lisa Gay Hamilton Mary
J.D. Cullum John
Michael Wikes Steve Famiglietti
Thomas Dorff Brillhoffer
Frederick Neumann Judge
Conrad McLaren Sheriff
Leo Leyden Englishman
Malachy McCourt Englishman
Julie Hagerty Alexandra (uncredited)
Keith Reddin Dobbs

Technical Credits
Barbet Schroeder Director
Mel Bourne Production Designer
Milena Canonero Costumes/Costume Designer
Daniel Davis Art Director
Elon Dershowitz Co-producer
Steven Felder Production Designer,Production Manager
Howard Feuer Casting
Michael Flynn Associate Producer
Mark Isham Score Composer
Nicholas Kazan Co-producer,Screenwriter
Beth Kushnick Set Decoration/Design
Judianna Makovsky Costumes/Costume Designer
Oliver Stone Co-producer,Producer
Lee Percy Editor
Edward R. Pressman Co-producer,Producer
Michael Rauch Executive Producer
Luciano Tovoli Cinematographer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Reversal of Fortune
1. Newport's Home
2. A Tale of Two Comas
3. Evidence Accumulates
4. Two Phone Calls
5. One Thing In His Favour
6. Maria's Account
7. Team-Building
8. Obviously Guilty
9. David Marriott
10. Bothersome Facts
11. "Who Would You... ?"
12. Her State of Mind
13. Jokes and Chinese Food
14. Aspirin Overdose
15. Alexandra's Impact
16. Two-Time Loser
17. "Of Course I Care"
18. The Needle Test
19. Black-Bag Concoctions
20. Happy Memories
21. Driven Crazy
22. Marriott's Visit
23. December 20, 1980
24. With Greater Venom
25. Behind a Closed Door
26. Setbacks and Victories
27. Whose Bag?
28. Overdose Trigger
29. Taking the Bait
30. Coma Theory #1
31. Coma Theory #2
32. Morally On His Own
33. Kidding Coda
34. End Credits


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Reversal of Fortune 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie was the most horrible movie of the year. Jeremy Irons was the worst part. He of course did not diserve Best Actor that year at all. They should not have even put this movie into market. I would give this no stars if possible!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thorougly enjoyed this movie. Jeremy Irons' acting was fantastic, and his performance was worthy of the academy award he won.