Judicial debate gets a lively cinematic treatment in First Monday in October, starring the odd couple pairing of Walter Matthau and Jill Clayburgh. When a justice of the Supreme Court dies, his appointed replacement is a witty but deeply conservative woman, Ruth Loomis (Clayburgh, An Unmarried Woman, Silver Streak). Loomis immediately raises the hackles of Dan Snow (Matthau, The Bad News Bears, California Suite), a fervent liberal in the minority on the bench. For a while, First Monday in October succeeds in making Loomis and Snow's debates about pornography and censorship lucid and engaging, aided greatly by the actors' obvious intelligence and grasp of the issues. But the movie gets sidetracked by an aimless corporate conspiracy plot and what can only be described as an intellectual romance between the two leads, which never quite catches fire. Still, an interesting effort. --Bret Fetzer
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