MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
The Pledge of Allegiance includes the words “...with liberty, and justice for all.”
Worth is a fact-based retelling of the hard work that is required to fight for justice and the seemingly insurmountable barriers that stand in the way whenever we work to bring about the coming kingdom of God: “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” (Isaiah 40:4)
Kenneth Feinberg (Keaton) is a successful lawyer with a background in politics as well as a lucrative law firm. As a guest lecturer in law schools, he introduces his students to the tough questions involved in legal settlements following a death. “What is a life worth?” we hear him asking a class at the beginning of the film.
Feinberg’s friendship and prior association with Senator Ted Kennedy created an opening to apply for the job of Special Master for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund – a project created by Attorney General John Ashcroft. Emerging necessities brought Republicans and Democrats together for this undertaking. It would be a daunting enterprise to reach out to all of the families who lost loved ones (including those trapped in the building as well as first responders). Feinberg gets the job and announces to his lawyers that this will be pro bono work. (This process would take more than 2½ years to complete.)
Early efforts to reach quick settlements are quickly opposed by many of the families, including a new advocacy group – “Fix the Fund” – led by Charles Wolf (Stanley Tucci), whose wife died when the towers fell.
Since this is the 20th anniversary of that terrible day, I was reluctant to spend very much time revisiting the tragedy. But I was glad to watch Worth. Without much fanfare, the movie simply shows us members of Feinberg’s firm meeting with a variety of people struggling to deal with their grief and loss. We observe the interviewing skills of Camille Biros (Amy Ryan), Feinberg’s head of operations, and Priya Kundi (Shunori Ramanathan), a recent graduate from law school. After a few interviews, the film settles down to a few representative families to show us how hard it is to compensate for the loss of life.
This is an intelligent and well-acted film, with another fine performance from Michael Keaton. The conclusion is a bit corny (reminding me of Miracle on 34th Street) but nevertheless quite moving. The movie includes closing screens that share the information that Feinberg continued his efforts to represent other people in other difficult class settlements.
If our faith in God’s love for us in Christ is real, people need to see us caring for a hurting world in need of healing. Worth is the best kind of inspirational movie, showing us how this is done. May all of dedicate ourselves to what the prophet Micah proclaims as good: “To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Five halos: A film that reminds us of the hard but necessary work of reconciliation.
Two pitchforks: Occasional swearing; archival footage of the 9/11 attacks; references to adultery.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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