DENIAL — Review by Susan Granger

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Until the late 1980s, British historian David Irving (Timothy Spall) enjoyed respectability among his peers, even though his best-known book “Hitler’s War” (1977) claimed that Hitler had no knowledge of the Holocaust. But then Irving began to deny the existence of the Holocaust, ridiculing claims that there were gas chambers. When a strident American academic from Queens, New York, Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz), accused him of anti-Semitism in “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory” (1993), it never occurred to her that she – and Penguin Books – could be sued for libel – or that the ensuing court cast would put acceptance of the Holocaust on trial.

Under British law, the burden of proof lies on the defendant. In America, it lies with the plaintiff. So Lipstadt, a history professor at Emory University in Atlantic, could either settle out of court, which Irving would claim as a personal victory, or proceed; she chooses the latter.

Solicitor Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott), who represented Princess Diana in her divorce against Prince Charles, prepares the case which dour Scottish barrister Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson) presents at London’s Royal Court of Justice on Lipstadt’s behalf.

Patching together actual transcripts and meticulously researched recordings, screenwriter David Hare (“Wetherby,” “The Hours”) and director Mick Jackson (“The Bodyguard,” TV’s “Temple Grandin”) proceed as the eight-week courtroom drama evolves. As a result, sneering, smarmy David Irving was not only discredited but also disgraced.

Too bad the filmmakers didn’t try for more of an emotional connection with Deborah Lipstadt, comparable, perhaps, to “Woman in Gold” (2015), in which Helen Mirren played Jewish refugee who went back to Vienna to reclaim a Klimt painting stolen from her family by the Nazis.

In the current political climate, the release of this film couldn’t be timelier, examining concepts like fact-checking, conspiracy theories, and the need for concrete evidence when making claims.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Denial” is a somber, suitably shaming 6, yet without a satisfying showdown moment.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.