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The Doctor
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Doctor More at IMDbPro »

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23 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Well worth the price of a box of hankies.

Author: Doctor_Bombay from Lucas Buck, NC
1 March 1999

It's not unusual in Hollywood for 2 studios to be working on similar projects at the same time. One obvious example might be Milos Forman's beautiful Valmont, and Stephen Frear's certainly adequate Dangerous Liaisons. The latter featured a ‘bigger' cast by American standards, and did better business, not surprisingly.

About the same time as Randa Haines' beautiful, ‘The Doctor', with William Hurt was delivered, so was Mike Nichols ‘Regarding Henry', starring Harrison Ford. Again, the latter did bigger business, and as a result I feel this film was largely overlooked.

On first look, The Doctor seems a standard tale: icy, successful surgeon finds out what medicine is really like when the tables are turned and he is diagnosed with throat cancer. His redemptive arc is somewhat predictable, as he reconnects with family, redefines his medical practice, and restructures his relationship with his similarly icy partners.

But it's under these, predictable circumstances that a true craftsman like Ms. Haines can make the ordinary extraordinary. The film is genuinely heartfelt and touching, resisting at every turn any self-indulgence, or the gratuitous pulling at heartstrings, relying on a quiet, confidence, a softer emotion instead.

Not that it's not weepy at times.

Hurt has never been better in the title role. Elizabeth Perkins as his soul-mate cancer victim is equally superb.

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17 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Wonderful exploration of empathy

10/10
Author: Doug Smith (dougsmithtraining) from Warminster, PA
29 April 2002

A truly solid cast delivers a moving drama filled with humor and emotion. This could be the single best exploration of the theme of "empathy" ever filmed.

This film should be required viewing for any training or development on health care, communication, leadership, and service. Watch this the same week you watch "Patch Adams" and you'll be a better person emotionally for it.

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13 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

A Great Movie

Author: dodjie santos (dodjiesantos@yahoo.com) from Philippines
28 October 2004

I was impressed and touched by the movie's theme. I've recommended the movie to friends and acquaintances and those that watch it are also moved.

When my wife was hospitalized for leukemia there was an intern who became impatient with my questions and concern. I couldn't help but think that "hey, someday you'll become a patient too. Let's see how you'll handle it."

They should have medical students watch this movie. We can become callous at times, that we forget to put ourselves in the shoes of the other person.

The movie shows that there are people that stay in our lives so briefly but leave warm and good impressions that last a lifetime.

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14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Excellent View from the Other Side

10/10
Author: chatterbug2k1 from United States
10 June 2006

The Doctor may not be the most moving, most influential, or best portrayed movie of all time, but it certainly should rank near the top of the best medical movies of all time. The story is about Dr. Jack MacKee (William Hurt), an arrogant heart surgeon whose believes that doctors should "Get in, fix it, and get out". However, when he finds himself diagnosed with cancer, he must see the system from the other side - a mechanized, unsympathetic system where the patient's comfort is the least concern. The story complicates when he befriends a fellow cancer patient, June Ellis (Elizabeth Perkins), who proves to be an inspirational figure in Jack's battle against cancer.

The movie could be deemed a transformation story. At first, Jack is an unlovable character - the doctor we all wish we didn't have. However, as he continues through his ordeal, his attitude begins to change. It is a profound change, and provides for many deep, moving scenes.

The story itself is not complicated, and is easy to follow. The acting, however, is top notch, and makes for a terrific movie. I would recommend it to anybody.

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12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant. US film makers should study this

9/10
Author: mattrochman from Australia
26 April 2006

One of the major problems with American-made films is they overlook the touching effectiveness of simplistic and credible story telling combined with well-toned, subtle and even performances. Films such as Rain man and Erin Brockovich are good examples of where these attributes are ditched in favour of over-dramatic, occasionally over-melancholic and (often) unrealistic subplots. This, in turn, usually results in forced, uneven and rather unmoving performances.

American film makers need to review films such as Paris, Texas and The Browning Version to see how powerful, touching and engaging real-life drama is presented most effectively when the script-writers and director chooses simplicity and subtlety, without 'flair' and forced drama (ie... they need to look to Europe to see how it's done!)

The Doctor is certainly a large step in the right direction. The tone is subtle and the acting is fantastic because it is even across the cast. There is nothing unrealistic or fancy about the story and we don't have doctors running round the "ER" yelling and screaming and "manufacturing" drama. The Doctor is simple, yet brilliant.

I find it irrelevant that the story is overtly predictable. I'll never know why Hollywood finds it necessary to throw in the "dramatic twist" into every film? The majority of the time, the "twist" is usually predictable anyway, creates little by way of dramatic effect and is often childish and stupid (case in point "High Crimes"). Telling the story is the secret to drama, not artificially manufacturing one!

Perkins was terrific in the Doctor, but it was surprising to see that she had few notable roles after this film.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Surprisingly good.

9/10
Author: Nimble-Bird from United States
7 April 2005

The premise seemed a little too straightforward at first glance: Doctor becomes patient. But it is so well executed, you can't help but be drawn in. I kept suspecting it was going to turn sappy at any moment, but director Randa Haines does not hold back on the emotional awkwardness that comes from difficult situations. There is much less sentimentality than Haines' best-known film, Children of a Lesser God. And although Hurt is far less "charming" in this film than he was in that one, he actually is more watchable. The more difficult he becomes, the more interesting the film gets.

Another intriguing aspect of the film is the feelings Chritine Lahti's character experiences, from sympathy to anger, to jealousy, to feeling shut out, you name it. In fact, the film could have delved even deeper into their marital discord and it would not have lost me. For some this film may go down a little too easily, but I think the accessibility of the subject matter in this case is an asset.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A new look at an old issue.

Author: dr_emma (dr_dianaworld@hotmail.com) from Heraklion, Greece
21 January 2001

The Doctor is a film that really touches you without being too weepy. It's the way doctors along the world think until... something happens and they find themselves on the other side. William Hurt is great as The Doctor. The desperation on his face when he finds out that from now on he'll be a cancer patient is unique and authenticque. But the film is not only for this doctor. It's about the community of doctors. It's about a closed profession that will hardly accept anyone else. Doctors have their own way of seeing things and that's obvious in the film. They are those who know what comes next and that's even more frightening for them. Dr. Blumfield is someone who's been banished from that special community for "daring" to see the side of a patient. The transformation of Dr. Jack McKee is a miracle that rises through his own sickness and his "patient-mate" is an angel in disguise to help him through. The whole story verifies what people say:"doctors are the worst patients ever" and that's because they experience the ultimate fear, considering that they have the knowledge. The film illustrates all of the concerns of The Doctor so beautifully and with such realism that's hard not to like it. I don't know about the general audience, but I do strongly believe that every Medical Doctor should see it.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Well worth the time

9/10
Author: kdarnell-1 from United States
21 August 2009

This movie came out about a year before I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and I watched it during my recovery from surgery and radiation treatments. It helped me to understand the relationship between doctor and cancer patient. William Hurt is indeed excellent in this film, but I have always liked his understated presence and aloof yet empathetic evocations. Recently, a colleague was diagnosed with a serious cancer and he continues to undergo his treatments. I think the American medical community has made great improvements in the emotional component of care for cancer patients, but in 1992 Hurt's portrayal was close enough to echo my observations of how I was cared for then.

So, though it's a bit of a tearjerker and has a happy ending that reality will not always produce, I think it is a meaningful film and especially for those who are facing a serious diagnosis or caring for those who are.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

very good, even if it doesn't seem 100% realistic

7/10
Author: Lee Eisenberg (lee.eisenberg.pdx@gmail.com) from Portland, Oregon, USA
21 March 2007

San Francisco surgeon Jack McKee (William Hurt) has been a jerk his whole life. He never refers to his patients by their names and apparently never knows why they're in the hospital. In short, Jack's the opposite of Patch Adams. But then, he becomes a patient, and finds out what it's really like to be on the other side. Admittedly, this is sort of a cliché (and maybe sappy at times). But still, it's a good look at one man's change.

I will say that what Jack does at the end looked a little unrealistic; I doubt that he went that far in real life. But even so, I still say that the movie is worth seeing. Not a masterpiece by any stretch, but important. Also starring Christine Lahti, Charlie Korsmo, Mandy Patinkin and Adam Arkin.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

William Hurt is excellent...

9/10
Author: MarieGabrielle from United States
28 June 2007

This film is an involving, serious and important reflection of what changes a doctor goes through when he is diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Dr. Jack McKee (William Hurt) is an arrogant self-satisfied surgeon on top of the world. He and his colleagues, Dr. Eli Blumfield (Adam Arkin) and Dr. Kaplan (very well-portrayed by Mandy Patimkin) are all successful surgeons. Some go through character transformation for the better when they learn that Dr. McKee has throat cancer.

An early scene in the film involves Dr. Abbot (great performance by Wendy Crewson as the ENT/throat surgeon who diagnoses his cancer). She is cold and clinical, and Hurt becomes angry. He tells her she is not treating her patients with any compassion or empathy. She basically responds by telling him her patients are basically an assembly line. Hurt used to be similar to Dr. Abbot, as we see in an opening scene he makes a cutting remark to a breast cancer patient.

The transformation also occurs as Hurt is waiting for an MRI. He meets June Ellis (Elizabeth Perkins) who has an advanced brain tumor. She talks with him, and tells him they got to the cancer too late. She is resigned to her death. Hurt is outraged as he notes that she was never treated appropriately for her illness, as an MRI test would have diagnosed the early stages of a cancer. She retorts that her insurance company refused to pay for an MRI.

Hurt's wife is well portrayed by Christine Lahti. She tries to help him, and he finds himself drawn to the patient, June Ellis. Hurt realizes that life is multi-faceted, and being a doctor is not the only thing that matters. Ellis teaches him to appreciate nature, they take a trip to the desert, there are some beautiful scenes and cinematography.

Hurt finally realizes he must first teach compassion and empathy. New surgical interns are trained by him and there are some amusing scenes where he makes them enact a role reversal, and put on hospital gowns; they are to be diagnosed with fictional illness and identify with the patients. My brother is a surgeon and went through similar training.

Overall an excellent and moving film not to be missed. Highly recommended. 9/10

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