Gross Anatomy (1989) Poster


User Reviews

Add a Review
22 Reviews
Sort by:
Engrossing. (minor spoilers)
Pepper Anne2 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Gross Anatomy was released one year prior to another med student saga entitled Vital Signs. While the movies are similar in many respects, especially in creating a formulaic arrangement of characters, Gross Anatomy is much more of a comedy/drama while Vital Signs is pretty much a straight drama.

The story of Gross Anatomy concerns five first-year med students who's grueling academic schedule and various experiences with getting their feet wet forces them to consider whether they're really ready for the committment or are they just wasting their time. This is particularly true of main character Joe Slovak (Matthew Modine), as apparent from the introduction of him sitting in various admissions interviews trying to answer questions the way he thinks would please the representatives. Joe's a bright guy, and a pretty gifted med student, if only he'd apply himself. And that's pretty much the whole ponit of the movie. What is Joe Slovak's goal here?

The one to impress that on him the most is a pretty tight-fisted, but well-meaning professor played by Christine Lahti. Her character is not simply there to turn out med students who know the human anatomy, but who also have compassion towards their patients and realize that there is really much more to the whole field than just memorizing terms or grades on exams. Joe Slovak has yet to learn that.

The movie is pretty funny, despite being a somewhat sad story towards the end (and you'll probably guess why early on). But, it is a pretty entertaining film, and often a funny one at that. It's also interesting to take a look at the day in the life of a med student, particularly if those are your perspective plans. I'm not sure that this (and Vital Signs, which deals with 3rd year med students) is an exaggerated perspective of medical school like say, The Paper Chase (which deals with first year law students). Then again, they're two different ball games. 80s fans are sure to enjoy it. Daphne Zugian is always funny to see as the girl who tries too hard to pretend that she doesn't care or isn't effected by certain things (see The Sure Thing), but later, has to break down and admit it. She's pretty funny here, as well as the rest of the supporting cast, to make it quite an engrossing little movie. Aces!
11 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Underrated character flick nobody ever talks about
g-man-224 June 1999
Not a great film, I suppose, but "Gross Anatomy" has enough that's entertaining, engaging and memorable about it to recommend the film to fans of character drama. "ER" and "Chicago Hope" may well have set the standard for medical dramas, but this look at some first-year med students and their quest to achieve the impossible (become a practicing surgeon or specialist) has long since been forgotten in the trash-bin of seemingly negatable Disney flicks. Released at the turn of the 80's, when Disney was rampantly putting out what seemed like a movie a week, it features a sterling performance by the eternally underrated Matthew Modine as Joe Slovak, an endlessly appealing character despite his tendency to annoy everyone else in the film. Slovak is a wonderful creation on the part of the writers, first seen in a highly memorable pre-credits sequence in which each of the post-grad medical schools asks him questions that eventually reveal the 'real Joe'. Or at least the Joe Slovak he wishes to project. Christine Lahti, who would of course go on to fame and acclaim in "Chicago Hope", practiced her medical chops here as a sickly professor bent on pressuring her students to achieve perfection, even if they themselves aren't often willing to reach for it. The rest of the cast (Daphne Zuniga and the always-great Todd Fields) have done work elsewhere that's gotten more attention, but it's doubtful they've ever been as effective as they are here. By no means is this a classic, but a sharply-observed film that despite a layer of Disney-esque schmaltz manages to touch, entertain and invigorate.
16 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Works Inspite of Shortcomings.
tfrizzell20 July 2002
A first-year med student (Matthew Modine) is obsessed with becoming a doctor, but jokes his way through everything else in his life in this under-rated little flick that works due to a clever screenplay and good performances from the major players in the cast. The film goes for funny and outlandish situations, but has undertones of drama early and then the drama takes center stage by the film's final act. Christine Lahti shines as the one professor who locks horns with Modine. Above-average and enjoyable overall. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
9 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Dissection of The First Year of Medical School
lord woodburry14 May 2006
This is a genteel romantic comedy about the first year of medical school from the perspective of Laurie Rorbach (Daphne Zuniga). There's no hold barred from day one onward: This is a total commitment.

Enter Joe Slovak (Matthew Modine. He's the wise guy from a lower class background but he's got a system for beating the odds and getting by with a minimum of effort. His natural intelligence pulls him through most test of wills, but that chip on the shoulder attitude leaves him with utter contempt for the concept that something greater than educating a medical mechanic is at work. A wise instructor Dr. Rachel Woodruff (Christine Lahti) is out to teach Slovak a powerful lesson.

The lab partner make up an excellent supporting cast. The washout student who is bright willing though unable, the Joe-College type who has pretensions and ambitions as thinly veiled as Slovak's sarcasm, and the female student whose husband wants to keep her barefoot and pregnant give a good cross-section of young adulthood which is of course still in a "becoming" stage.

I was surprised to see that this delightful film did not get higher ratings.
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Interesting Caricature of Medical School
heinlen8 November 2004
Having been through the first two years of medical school (including, of course, Gross Anatomy) it is obvious to me that whomever wrote the original material for this movie had some understanding of the precise pressures an fears that medical students suffer. Many people say that "medical school is difficult" and it is, but that idea gives you very little understanding of what really goes on that makes it difficult. Many movies get basic ideas essentially wrong - take "Flatliners" where the characters do hospital rounds routinely, although they are still just conducting Gross Anatomy classes (albeit in a dankly lit dungeon environment).

In Gross Anatomy, the basic characters you seen in Med School are there. David Schreiner, the guy who burns out, represents all the people who got in off the wait list and barely eek by, all the time hating the rest of the people who find it easier. Miles Reed is your typical "Gunner" who gets by not only by obsessing over every detail of class, but by incessant campus climbing. Kim McCauley is the lovable girl who seems oblivious and ambulant to her own performance (and will likely become the best doctor of the bunch). Laurie is the girl who "always wanted to be a doctor" and has a single-minded ambition to put nothing between her and her school work, much to the detriment of her social life. Joe Slovak is probably the least realistic character - there aren't too many happy go lucky people for whom medical school is so easy. You see jovial people around who never seem to get behind, but at the same time always participate in extra curriculars, but not with Joe's laid back, devil may care attitude, and certainly not his contempt for patients.

Many of the classroom and test scenes are sort of over-hyped - think about how many times they professors say, "People this IS Gross Anatomy". However, at the same time, there is always an importance placed on the seriousness of the school environment that hints at what the experience is really about.

I enjoy the movie because it does almost seem like an inside job in the medical field poking fun at many of the people and practices we see on the way to medical licenser and is only thinly wrapped with the hint of a storyline.

2 of 5 as a movie, but probably the best around as medical student movies go.
11 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
not to be confused with the "Anatomy" horror movies
disdressed1223 May 2007
i liked this's about first year medical students and what they go focuses specifically on a small group of five in's a drama more than the first half of the movie is pretty light in tone,but the second half is much more serious in fact,there are two heartbreaking scenes in the second half, which got me pretty emotional.but that's just me.this is a very much a character and story driven movie and it succeeds,in my mind,at least mostly.the acting is pretty good.Matthew Modine, Daphne Zuniga and Christine are the main actors.all are likable characters,in their own way. .overall, well written,well acted movie.not great, but pretty good.for me,"Gross Anatomy" is an 7/10
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Romantic comedy and character study nicely rolled into a drama
napierslogs22 November 2010
"Gross Anatomy" is a romantic comedy and med school student learns about life and himself character study, nicely rolled into a drama. I first saw it as a young teen in the early 90s, and it stuck with me as a dramatic romantic comedy but more so as a med school examination that really spoke to me.

Almost twenty years later, I am much more film literate, and while I still like it, I can see it's not as good as it could have been, or as I remember it. It's really not much of a character study, as Matthew Modine's Joe is your typical smart slacker who gets by on his looks, charm and natural intelligence - which is almost enough for med school. I wish they showed me more of his struggles in school and less of his romantic efforts to win over Laurie (Daphne Zuniga). The romantic comedy angle is so formulaic and predictable, that the comedy fell flat. On the other hand, the interpretation of med school seemed more realistic and not as enticing as most shows and movies make it out to be.

"Gross Anatomy" is probably more intriguing to a younger audience, with its immature characters and predictable romance. But these characters are appealing, especially Modine as we follow him on his journey through first year med school. I was not as emotionally invested as I first was years ago, but I still enjoyed this as a cute film.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Teacher Assistant
grege836 October 2009
I am the guy(the teacher assistant) pointing at the diagram on the chalkboard(for about 3 seconds) in the movie.(no kidding)

The movie itself is largely entertaining, though predictable. It is obvious the guy will get the girl in the end, though what he has to go through to get her makes it interesting.

If I were interested in going to medical school, seeing this movie might make me think twice about it.Still, it illustrates the same tired theme of many other movies. This being, "You gotta really want it, more than anything else, if you're gonna get through it successfully."

Daphne Zuniga is enchanting in her role and Matthew Modine is annoying in his. I almost hoped he wouldn't end up with her. It reminded me a bit of his role in "Full Metal Jacket." Maybe they should have called him "Joker" in this movie,too.

Overall,a pleasant, if inconsequential, movie.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Good movie, dumb title
culwin8 June 2001
If you loved Vision Quest and The Sure Thing you'll like this movie, because it's sort of a combination of the two (maybe not quite as good). Daphne Zuniga and Matthew Modine play students in med school. She cares too much about school, he doesn't care enough. Will they graduate? Will they hook up? Will Matthew Modine ever get a haircut? Eh, who cares, this is just mindless viewing entertainment. The title is really stupid, who's idea was that? Not exactly a good title for a romantic comedy.
5 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A nice dissection of year one in the life of a medical student
Amy Adler3 July 2007
Joe Slovak (Matthew Modine) is the son of an east coast fisherman. Bright as a button, however, Joe wants to become a doctor and he gains acceptance into a medical school. Once there, his easy going style is at odds with those around him. Beautiful Laurie (Daphne Zuniga) is the privileged daughter of a wealthy doctor and wastes no time in telling Joe that her schedule has no room for casual dating. Then, too, Joe's anal roommate, David (Todd Field) is so uptight he has flossing on his daily schedule and his lab partner, Miles, has a silk shirt on every day. In addition to all of this, the school boasts a no-nonsense instructor (Christine Lahti) that uses ridicule as a teaching tool, if she so desires. Will Joe be able to sail the difficult waters of a first year medical student, without compromising his basic style and principles? This is a fine look at the first year in the life of a medical student. The workload is excruciating, to say the least, and even those who are smart and dedicated can fall between the cracks, failing examinations and more. All of the actors playing these roles are terrific, with Modine a delight as the atypical medical student and Zuniga very lovely as the determined but thoughtful doctor to be. Then, too, Lahti is wonderful as the much-despised instructor who uses her sharp tongue to weed out those who don't have what it takes to become competent doctors. You will like the costumes, sets, and look of this film very much, too. If you are contemplating a future as a doctor, you must get this film soon, as it will give you a taste of the intensity your life will take on for the next few years. But, even if you just love films about the medical profession or those that boast a nice little love story, this one is for you.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Editor B20 April 2000
Matthew Modine plays a first-year med school student. He's always late for class, and he has a cavalier attitude while all his fellow students are way too serious. The filmmakers must have intended a charming, rebellious character. Unfortunately, he comes off as a smug, annoying smart-ass.

I kept hoping Modine would get his comeuppance, but instead he's made out to be a hero.

There are only two interesting things here: a portrait of the grueling routine of medical school (with a continuing theme of dissecting corpses) and the embarrassing late-80s fashions.
3 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
medical school drama
SnoopyStyle1 February 2016
Joe Slovak (Matthew Modine) gets into Chandler University's College of Medicine. He's a smart irreverent student from a fishing community. His roommate David Schreiner (Todd Field) is neat and high-strung. His Gross Human Anatomy class is taught by Dr. Rachel Woodruff (Christine Lahti) who thinks he doesn't try hard enough. He changes group to be close to Laurie Rorbach (Daphne Zuniga). The group includes the self-important Miles Reed and Kim McCauley with a family.

This is 'The Paper Chase' of medical school. Everything in the story is telegraphed. The story is pretty well done. The acting is solid. There are some lighter rom-com moments but this is a generally serious drama. The major problem seems to be that there is an expectation of a wacky comedy with heart. There is no wacky comedy in this. There is a sprinkling of lighter moments in a pretty solid school drama.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Post college romance
catoelder14 December 2009
I was recently given this film as a present.I know it was made about 20 yrs ago,and don't know how it did at the box office.But I found that it was not dated at all.In fact,I thought it was very good indeed.The story is of post-graduate students(in this case at medical school,but could be anything) in a high pressure;high work;intensive environment.It could be any grad school experience in a serious subject. The stresses and strains of coping with the exams and workloads for students from different backgrounds and with different motivations is well covered.The eventual focus is on a seemingly relaxed and laid back guy(modine) who does not seem to put in the effort of the others but does very well somehow(he does work hard but not publicly).And a young woman(Zuniga) who is very much work focused.Naturally they are attracted to each other.But while he is open about his interest,she is in denial and even tells him she has no time for anything other than achieving her academic goals.She also seems to have an-on/off occasional boyfriend who shows up just at the point where it causes maximum damage to Modine's feelings for her.Some of their fellow students also face their trials and tribulations with success and failure.And there are some strong dramatic bits.Modine is great and full of charm.And Zuniga is also excellent as the young woman who falls for him despite her vows to the contrary. Well acted and a movie you can watch with pleasure again and again.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Help! Why like this movie??
taniav3 March 2006
Help its the year 2006, and I still have this movie on tape and I like it oddly. Why is this? Maybe I wouldn't feel like such a freak if others shared why they like this movie? My guess is its because there aren't very many movies about the experience of higher learning, and this film sort of shows some of that...dunno. Thoughts? Thanks.\ Ineed to write at least 10 lines, so ignore this sentence. You can also ignore this sentence too as I've no more to write but require a minimum of 10 lines, as i've said, inorder to post this message. But I can't seem to think of something else to say aha! Now I've thought of something to write...

1. Actually, while we're on the topic, anyone know some other movies like this? Preferably from the 80's.

Thanks everyone!
3 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
inaccurately advertised,...
MartinHafer13 February 2006
If it weren't for the fact that the studio folks deliberately misrepresented this film, it might have gotten a score of 5 or even 6. That's because I clearly remember it being advertised as a kooky comedy about medical school AND when I saw it soon afterwards, it was about as wild and kooky as stripping wallpaper. Instead, it mostly consisted of the lead (Matthew Modine) trying to get laid. And, much of his attention was focused on the older and more experienced Christine Lahti. For the most part, it looked like a made for TV movie grafted onto a raunchy 80s teen flick. The end result was very dull and unlikely to make anyone particularly happy--like eating a banquet made up only of white bread and ice water.
2 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Matthew at his best
mailmenav8 May 2006
when i saw the movie i felt what it is to be a 1st yr med student and how their lives go on and becoz not many films are shown on them i recommend that they make movies such as this i generally like humor movies but this movie has it all even what life is and how you should go abut it so fell this is very good movie on a Sunday afternoon to take popcorn and view it i think the rest of them will agree with me when i saw the movie i felt what it is to be a 1st yr med student and how their lives go on and becoz not many films are shown on them i recommend that they make movies such as this i generally like humor movies but this movie has it all even what life is and how you should go abut it so fell this is very good movie on a Sunday afternoon to take popcorn and view it i think the rest of them will agree with me
2 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Not a horror film!
bangwhistle10 October 2002
Aside from the goofy title, this is a nice diversion of a film. Matthew Modine plays the role he does so well (see "Married to the Mob"). Casual about authority, bucking the system, a great guy at heart. Daphne Zuniga starts out stuffy and learns to relax. Good fun.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
this movie rocks
shayne_H_199915 June 2006
So in answer to why you love this movie. I would have to say that you love this movie because it rocks! It's just an incredibly well acted, written, and directed movie. I loved it to pieces. It's poigant ( wow if only I knew how to spell) funny, and tragic all at once. It's an amazing film. So I guess that I have to write ten lines of text because that is the minimum requirement for posting. When I read the user's comment which I'm replying to I thought that maybe they just had obsessive compulsive disorder and felt strangely compelled to write ten lines of text all of the time. But no as it turns out they are completely sane, or I guess they are.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A disappointment
slater7423 February 2005
I was studying medicine in France when I saw this movie and was very disappointed. The characters were one-dimensioned and therefore, I couldn't feel sympathy for any one of them. Plus, many scenes were hard to swallow. Exhibit 1: One of the characters take too much amphetamine, so he collapses during an anatomy class then ... gets well a few minutes after !? Come on! I've seen people that took too much amphetamine, they were hospitalized for weeks, even months, and that wasn't a pretty sight. Exhibit 2: First years students are able to help a woman give birth in a coffee shop (I'm not sure it was a coffee shop, it's been a long time since I saw this movie). Exhibit 3: The main character who hadn't studied much for all the year win his final exam (If memory serves, he even get a better mark than his friends), although he could not sleep the night before (he almost arrives ate) and learned about one of his teachers' death when he entered the exam room, two factors that could prevent anyone to be in the good state of mind for winning an exam. This movie was a huge disappointment and I didn't like it at all.
1 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A "Feel Good Movie" About First Year Med Students
Desertman8428 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Gross Anatomy is a drama film directed by Thom Eberhardt that features Matthew Modine, Daphne Zuniga and Christine Lahti.This film is about first year medical students.

Joe Slovak, who's attending a posh school of medicine where everyone, seems to be well above his social stratum. Perhaps as a reaction to the snobbery all around him, he behaves as irreverently as possible. Neither his teacher Dr. Rachel Woodruff nor his lab partner, Laurie Rorbach, finds Joe's what-the-hell act appealing, but both are fully aware that he is a talented young man with a brilliant future. The climax of the film lays it on pretty thick in defining Joe as an all-around good fellow.

This is about first year Medical students.It focuses on the grueling pressures associated with the first year of medical school and all the stress and strain of coping with the exams and workloads for students from different backgrounds and with different motivations.It is an average film but it still applies today especially for students in the School of Medicine but overall,it strives successfully to be a "feel good" movie and it does.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Medical School Romance
wes-connors27 July 2011
After several years of trying, wavy-haired fisherman's son Matthew Modine (as Joseph "Joe" Slovak) is finally accepted at medical school. This is helped by his admission that he wants to be a doctor for the paycheck. Arriving at a school that looks very much like USC (aka The University of Southern California), Mr. Modine initially doesn't want to crack the books. He'd rather get into beautiful lab mate Daphne Zuniga (as Laurie Rorbach). Modine may also secretly desire professor Christine Lahti (as Rachel Woodruff), but not anal retentive roommate Todd Field (as David Schreiner)...

The title is going to make many think this is gross-out movie, but this is really a romantic college comedy, with cadavers...

Modine's lead character is very smart, but obviously not ready to take the Hippocratic Oath. This is something Prof. Lahti notices when she asks him to diagnosis a terminal case. He gets it right, but is heartless. Maybe he's just reacting to her being a hard-nose, because we see Modine's humanity in the way he treats Mr. Field's character (hope he's okay). The film is off balance because we care more about what happens to roommate Field, squirrelly John Scott Clough (as Miles Reed) and ovulating Alice Carter (as Kim McCauley) than Modine or Ms. Zuniga, who are likable but bland.

****** Gross Anatomy (10/20/89) Thom Eberhardt ~ Matthew Modine, Daphne Zuniga, Christine Lahti, Todd Field
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A comedy with a message
Gordon-1130 March 2011
This film is about a medical school student who does not seem to care about his studies, contrary to his fellow classmates who take their studies very seriously.

The main character, Joe, is charming but carefree. He does not seem to possess the typical attitude for medical school, and is contented to be an average guy. Yet he outperforms expectations even when he is not trying. He is the kind of person that you form a love-hate relationship with. I would not want him to be my doctor, but as a friend it should be OK. The emotional subplot involving Joe and the teacher is moving, and it inspires both Joe and the viewers. Hopefully, the event inspires Joe to be more than a good doctor in the future. Maybe a scene or some texts at the end of the film about this would be good, in order to bring some closure to the emotional elements of the film. "Gross Anatomy" is a comedy with a message. Though it is slow at times, it is enjoyable to watch.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews