Lita On Film

Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

The Good Doctor *Distribution Update!*

In Film News, Film Reviews on July 27, 2012 at 8:20 pm

*Update: This film has finally reached a distribution deal in the US with Magnolia Pictures, and will be released theatrically on August 31st.  Here’s my review, back when it premiered at least year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

The Good Doctor – Tribeca Selection 2011

In Film Reviews on May 16, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Orlando Bloom stars as a dour, disillusioned young doctor in this thriller by Irish director Lance Daly (“Kisses,” 2008).  Just starting out as a resident in a Los Angeles hospital, Bloom’s character, Martin Blake, is lonely, far from home (he retains his delicious British accent throughout), and close to his psychological breaking point.  After he is repeatedly shunned and disrespected by people he sees as his inferiors—a feisty nurse (Taraji P. Henson) and a suspicious orderly (Michael Pena)—Blake tries to ingratiate himself to the chief resident (Rob Morrow), but even that doesn’t work.  The only person who takes him seriously is a young female patient with a kidney infection (Riley Keough).

Soon, Blake has developed a full-blown obsession with his patient, and things only go downhill from there.  In classic thriller tradition, one bad turn leads quickly to another until it seems impossible for Blake to escape from the web of deceit he’s woven himself into.  However, Daly’s film resists the reductive tropes that are often deployed to resolve this sort of conflict.  There is no confession or courtroom drama, and despite a very emotionally overheated scene in which Blake contemplates escaping the situation entirely, he is eventually left to simply contemplate his actions and go on with his life.

“The Good Doctor” has a lot to say about men in the medical profession; some of Bloom’s best scenes are those in which he visibly covets the lives that the accomplished doctors around him have made for themselves.  It’s clear that Daly and screenwriter John Enbom are well aware that medicine is often as much about ego as it is about helping others, and this tension is perfectly expressed in Bloom’s performance.  Throughout the film Bloom’s acting is nicely understated, at least until he encounters some of the more histrionic moments in the script.

Overall, this is a solid film—its only shortcomings arise from the friction it tries to balance between its very restrained protagonist and the almost hysterical emotion that bubbles out of its climactic scenes.  The soundtrack gets similarly overblown in many places.  It’s problematic because it feels artificial: Blake doesn’t seem the type who would suddenly fall into such an infatuation with a patient, and after he’s done that he suddenly seems capable of many other things not in line with his character.  Of course, that’s often the point in thrillers like this—people do things we never thought they would.  But there’s an element of what could be described as magical realism in “The Good Doctor” that left me, at least, more perplexed than fascinated.

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Red Lights

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2012 at 8:13 pm

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Rodrigo Cortés’s new thriller RED LIGHTS treads the familiar territory most recently explored by films like INSIDIOUS and THE INNKEEPERS: the is-it-or-isn’t-it-real world of the supernatural and those who claim to be able to communicate with its inhabitants. What sets this film apart is its ridiculously star-studded cast, which includes Cillian Murphy, Elizabeth Olsen, Sigourney Weaver and none other than Robert De Niro as the mysterious psychic whose emergence from retirement kicks off the story. What RED LIGHTS gets right is its tense, slightly claustrophobic atmosphere—the tension builds nicely, even if it has nowhere to go but out the window in the end. With so much going for it, including some well-deployed cinematographic inventiveness, it’s a shame that Cortés is unable to keep his story from imploding right at its climax.

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Murphy plays a physicist inexplicably spending his career helping Weaver, a psychologist specializing in debunking paranormal phenomena, document her various conquests. From vengeful children to money-grubbing charlatans, Weaver’s character has always been able to root out conniving wherever she looks—with the exception of De Niro’s character, of course. Decades ago, when the two titans first faced off, De Niro’s character made an observation that could only have been the result of total heartlessness or actual ESP; Weaver’s character believes the former, and has never forgiven him for it. (“He made me DOUBT!” she yells tearfully at one point.)

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Cortes seems to want to explore not only the possibility of supernatural phenomena but the nature of faith itself. Weaver’s character is repeatedly confronted with people whose belief in ESP and the like is only strengthened when she points out how illogical it is. While at first the film is decidedly on Weaver’s side on this issue, by its (very muddled) end, it has steamed past ambivalence and ended up all the way on the other end of the spectrum, confirming the very concepts it began by ridiculing. While Cortes does a good job of highlighting the eerie undeniability of the weird things that keep happening to Murphy and Weaver, this buildup feels crazed rather than poignant. When the big reveal finally happens, it’s less a revelation than a “red light” of its own: something uncanny and strange that sticks out because it clearly doesn’t belong.

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Instead of evoking the shock and sudden rush of realization brought on by films like THE SIXTH SENSE, Cortés’s twist ending—which was visible from miles away—is so clumsily realized that I, for one, still don’t know if I actually understand what happened. Sadly, despite everything it has going for it, RED LIGHTS just can’t get out of its own way.

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© Lita Robinson 2012