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This docu-drama highlights the complexities of compensation through the legal system for medical malpractice. For when the mother attempts to investigate the hospital procedure of using ... See full summary »
Kind of disappointing, really, as a mystery/thriller/drama. It's the kind of story that TV productions sometimes handle very well. And it has Stephanie Zimbalist who has by now demonstrated her professional competence. Oh, she can no longer play the teenage temptress or Nancy Drew, but she delivers as a malpractice attorney. And if she's not as athletic as she was in earlier movies she still strides along with her head thrown back alertly, vigilantly, confidently. Her age actually adds to the impact of her role as an overburdened working wife and mother. She looks a little bushed and strung out. She is particularly effective in a scene in which she confront her husband over the breakfast table about an affair she's just found out about. The actors playing her children are fine too, small though the parts are.
That's about it for the good part. The supporting players fail to rise to the level of afternoon -- what do they call them -- domestic dramas? Her boss doesn't utter a believable line, and it could have been an interesting role. (Imagine Emmet Walsh.) The homicidal nurse is a standardtypical villainess, immediately evident from her slightly misshapen face and sly eyes. The poor guy who is Doctor Lacey sounds like he once took an acting class in college. And Zimbalist's husband, Ken -- wow! He looks like Stanley Turturro and sounds like Alan Alda but the director, Mickey Dolenz of all people, must never have suggested he tone down the dramatics. He stutters, he weeps (or tries to), he has anxiety attacks. The movie may be worth seeing for his enactment of a panic attack if for no other reason. He throws his head back, totters around in circles, and his eyeballs whirl crazily. Dolenz doesn't give him any help at all because the camera is whirling crazily too and the scenes are intercut with flashbacks to a botched operation he blames himself for. It is clear at once that nobody involved had any idea of what a panic attack is like. What happens during a panic attack, which has roots in the victim's constitution, is that his body is flooded with adrenalin. He doesn't wander around looking at the sky. He CRINGES, just as one would cringe while standing in front of a firing squad. You want to see a good panic attack? See Kirk Douglas do a number on it at the end of "The Juggler." Or watch Paul Newman trying to make a phone call in "The Verdict." Now THAT'S acting.
The plot was disappointing too, or maybe I was expecting the wrong thing. I was kind of looking forward to something along the lines of a courtroom drama with lots of behind the scene goings on, like Harrison Ford's "Innocent Until Proven Guilty" or whatever it was. Zimbalist is after all a malpractice attorney and her husband is a doctor. But there are no courtroom scenes, very little medicine, and no more law than we need to know in order to identify Zimbalist as a lawyer. It's really a murder mystery with some romantic drama mixed in. What I mean is that we don't come away from the movie having LEARNED anything -- about law, about medicine, or even about people. (The murderer is not credible.)
I can imagine easily that the original story might have looked good in an expanded version. But this version, full of plot twists and important details, looks as if it's been put through a duck press. The script is almost all exposition. There's hardly a throwaway line in it. Greetings between people who haven't seen one another in a while go something like this. "Hey, you haven't changed a bit. You still look like a medical malpractice attorney!" "Hi, Maynard. And you still look like a private eye!" That's what I mean by a duck press.
The director does a good enough job blocking ordinary scenes but at one point loses it completely, not counting the panic attacks suffered by the camera. There is an intense meeting between a handful of lawyers arguing in an office behind a glass wall. Dolenz masks the discussion with musical noise and moves the camera from side to side, over and over, with a big post blocking our view of the participants. It adds nothing in the way of visual texture. It's just annoying.
If you like movies in which the wife is the hard-working breadwinner whose husband used to be "a competent man and has turned into a wimp," you might enjoy it. Basically the gender roles are reversed. The husband, now thoroughly neurotic, stays home and sleeps all day and no longer makes love to her. She comes home tired and he ignores her, and so forth. Of course she not only married a competent (ie., ithyphallic) male but a rich doctor, a surgeon too, but we won't go into that.
Well, I didn't enjoy it much but others might.
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