5) L.A Confidential (1997)
While this Academy Award-winning film tells a complex tale of police corruption and the way in which it intersected with celebrity culture in Hollywood in the 1950s, its themes of acceptance, forgiveness and hopeful optimism encapsulate festive sentiment, with a plot that features a very specific yuletide link.
In Los Angeles of the early 1950s, emotionally detached and officious LAPD detective Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) cements his self-serving reputation by agreeing to testify against his colleagues on a police brutality charge – following an incident that became known as ‘Bloody Christmas.’ He offers his testimony in exchange for a promotion, and we discover that he is motivated by the unexplained murder of his police detective father.
Then there’s Officer Bud White (Russell Crowe), who has his own issues with his past and is used by Captain Dudley Smith (James Cromwell) as an enforcer or sorts, in his supposed efforts to deal with unsavoury characters outside of official channels. Smith believes Bud is perfect for the role, thanks to his disdain for violent criminals, and his tendency to not ask questions.
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A massacre at a coffee shop sets Exley and White on the trail of the truth – which leads them, separately, to a Hollywood escort service that uses women who look like famous actresses. White becomes romantically involved with a prostitute named Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger), but their involvement intensifies the conflict between White and Exley, as the pair gradually uncover layer upon layer of corruption and disturbing criminal activity.
The script is written by director Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland and is loosely adapted from the noirish crime novel of the same name by James Ellroy. Against a backdrop of drama and intrigue, each of the characters find themselves reflecting on their own lives, and taking stock of aspirations and motivations. Each must overcome their own unfortunate demons in order to move forward and be happy, and ultimately, they find that this is made possible by working together and providing acceptance and forgiveness to others, as well as themselves.