An actress (Altman) lands a gig on a soap and soon finds that her life's become one -- particularly when she discovers her neighbor (Clarkson) can't distinguish television from reality.
Strangely, this newer film appears to be in public domain (I found it in the dollar bin and there's no copyright notice displayed anywhere in the movie), or I most likely wouldn't have seen it. I've come to like Patricia Clarkson and assumed from the packaging it was an old TV movie with her. I was quite surprised to see a newer film with a widescreen transfer for a buck... and I was again surprised to see that it FELT like a TV movie...
The premise of the film has been done before, and done better, most notably in "Soapdish." At least that film knew its genre. "Hospital" bounces between hard drama, broad comedy, parody, and at times even touches on camp. Writer/director Ruedi Gerber seems to have great skills as a director. There are some really good visuals and he got great performances out of the cast. It's his writing that needs improvement.
Perennial TV star John Shea gives a pretty over-the-top performance as an emotional actor who's defined his entire life by the doctor he plays on TV. His performance is rivaled by Clarkson, who absolutely devours the scenery as a psychotic, TV-obsessed fan... though Clarkson's character and performance is infinitely more interesting and layered. She seems to carry the film, which is strange since she's a secondary character (for fans of Clarkson, the film is a must-see). The leading lady is really Chelsea Altman, who gives a fine performance as an actress whose life is turned upside-down -- but it's her character that often drags the comedy into drama. I can't blame the actress for the film's shortcomings -- she shows a wide range of acting abilities -- but rather the unevenness of the script. Diane Venora is also notable as the aging diva soap star and she lends a lot to the camp aspect of the film, but her character has far less screen time than she should. The film doesn't really take off until late in the second act, following a contrived whodunit. The movie's better for it, but the resolution's pretty predictable and a little flat.
All in all, it's not a bad film, but mostly mediocre. Soap opera fans might get a charge out of its absurdity, and fans of the actors should certainly seek out a copy.
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