Overall, this is not a good movie. In fact, I was quite disappointed. Lee Remick's performance rises above the weak script and plot and Remick delivers a solid performance as the title character. But the plot and some of the characters had me cringing at times, especially that whiny, selfish husband of Jesse's. And the local "thug", Holland, was quite a nuisance too, even if he was on Jesse's side.
And I am not entirely convinced that Jesse was without fault in the litigation against her. She was dispensing medicine (even if she had the permission of the doctor) and doing some other things that only physicians are authorized to do. That's how I saw it anyway. But beyond the ethics of what she was doing, which really was only ministering to the locals who had no doctor in the area (only when Dr. Adams would fly in on occasion), this became a moral issue.
Jesse herself asks her husband, Sam (Scott Wilson), if she should stay home and cook his breakfast or go out and save someone who is in an emergency. Of course, any sensible, feeling person would say she should do the latter. However, she was a nurse and a practical one at that, and not a licensed nurse or physician. Though the crude tracheotomy she performed at the beginning of the movie on the teenager injured in an accident was life-saving, she did overstep her bounds. However, she did save a person's life (Dr. Adams seemed OK about it on the phone when she called him) and if any of us were in a similar situation with no doctors and no other medical help around, we'd most likely do the same. So the movie, if for anything else, was good in that it raised ethical and moral questions.
I don't think Jesse acted like a doctor sometimes because she liked playing God or was self-important or anything like that. She did so to help people and they responded to her in kind, making her basically a local celebrity. And her husband, Sam the miner, did not like this and took his bitterness about it out on his wife. He was really quite childish and silly and I wanted to reach through the TV screen and shake him. Jesse stood up to him, though, which also showed the strong and brave person she was even if she seemingly wasn't always by the book. I loved when she stood up to him at the dinner table when he was moaning about the lady at the store asking how Jesse was and not asking how he was (Grow up!) and bitching that she wasn't home enough and was spending too much time dealing with emergencies. (How awful of her!) Jesse launched into a nice rebuttal when she asked her whiny husband if she should tell people she has to vacuum and do the dishes instead of helping them with their emergencies. And she landed a nice blow when she said that no one else in the house was going to do the dishes. Bravo!!
Jesse was quite strong-willed as evidenced by her refusal to plead guilty and pay a fine after having been arrested and charged with practicing medicine without a license. Oh, and a word about those weasel state investigators Butler and his superior (forget his surname... he is Donald something), who set Jesse up. How they went about it was wrong, and was later found to have been illegal (that's basically how Jesse won her case, when her lawyer charged that Butler and his boss entrapped her), but I don't know that they were absolutely without grounds to charge Jesse with what they charged her with.
It is just that how they did it was wrong and really over the top, especially what that weasel Donald guy played by Leon Rippy did. I hated him! And it seemed to me that Butler did not like going along with their scheme to catch Jesse (I believe he verbalized his discomfort with it to his superior), which entailed Butler posing as a sick out-of-town visitor and paying Jesse an after hours visit about his "flu" so as to catch her doing things she was not authorized by law to do. And poor Sheriff Bill (Albert Salmi) had to serve his friend, Jesse, and take her into custody, with those two jerks, Ray Butler and Donald, being quite unkind (well, mainly the latter) and unfair to her. Again, I don't know if the charge was trumped up, but the way these state investigators went about it was quite disgusting.
And the courtroom finale was somewhat overblown and silly, mainly because of the reactions of the jam-packed spectators. I enjoyed Remick's delivery of her speech, if you will, on the stand, but that too was somewhat banal. Anatomy Of A Murder this is not! I wasn't surprised that Jesse got off because when her lawyer was cross-examining Butler, I just knew he was going to introduce entrapment. I said it aloud and sure enough, he did.
Jesse is not a great TV movie, even though it stars one of the medium's greatest actors in Lee Remick. It's not a total waste of 90 minutes, though it is not the most plausible or well done movie out there- made for TV and otherwise.
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