That’s the typical association with A Few Good Men, which was released in 1992, just as I was starting to develop an obsession with movies. I also loved courtroom procedurals (still do), so I was wowed upon first viewing. In 2024, as I view it through the filter of Singles Studies and singles advocacy, I give this one a verdict of “pro-single.”
The plot: two young United States Marines are being charged with the murder of another Marine in a hazing incident gone wrong. Ambitious Navy legal investigator Jo Ann Calloway (Demi Moore) is overseeing the case and is partnered up with Daniel Caffee (Tom Cruise), a slacker Navy lawyer who’d much rather navigate his baseball swing than a legal brief; he’s following in his legendary ligitator father’s footsteps, and at his behest, is in the Navy, even though the movie overstates the point that he’s just not suited for military life; he even hates boats (how he got through basic training is beyond me, but I digress).
See, Naval brass assign Caffee to the case because of his impeccable record of plea bargaining, so he’ll be able to handle the case without publicity. But, upon Calloway’s pushing and the determination of Dawson, a defendant who would rather stand trial to prove his devotion to the Marines’s code, Caffee becomes determined to try the case. And, true to cinematic form, the defendants are cleared of the murder charges (I hope I didn’t give away any spoilers). And we get that passionate speech from Jack Nicholson’s heavy.
Now, here’s the pro-single angle: Caffee and Calloway do not hook up. The movie does edge toward a romance angle: the two talk close to each other’s faces for a few seconds, and they do go out on one date at a seafood restaurant, but they’re strictly talking shop. The movie keeps that focus on the case. But Reiner, like Hitchock, plays the audience like a piano.
Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert disagreed sharply on the movie, particularly this element. Ebert (single at the time) found it odd that these two “good-looking, unmarried young people” didn’t get it on, while Siskel (married) was relieved the movie didn’t go there. My theory: Ebert, proven to be a matrimaniac in so many of his reviews, held romance on a pedestal, while Siskel, who’d “been there,” didn’t see it as such a big deal.
I bought Ebert’s movie review books when I was a developing cinefile, and I still read his reviews online, but I’m “thumbs up” on Siskel’s take.