Tribeca 2011: “The Good Doctor,” Reviewed

Tribeca 2011: “The Good Doctor,” Reviewed (photo)

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As a general rule, it’s usually considered unwise for a heartthrob type to play a bad guy early in their career, which is a shame since being easy on the eyes always makes the pain when they plunge the knife in just a little more painful. Orlando Bloom’s Dr. Martin Blake doesn’t want to have anything to do with knives – his desire to make it into the internal medicine program is so he’ll never have to administer needles, let alone a scalpel. Yet with hair swept over his forehead, you know Bloom has finally gone over to the dark side as Blake, a first-year resident who drowns in moral quandaries after becoming unusually obsessed with one of his patients (Riley Keough).

One wouldn’t be entirely wrong to think Blake is interested in the pyelonephritis sufferer Diane because of her blue eyes and blonde hair, but where John Enbom’s script becomes really interesting is by suggesting he’s enchanted equally by the idea of the girl’s family, dysfunctional as they are, who invite him over for dinner after he successfully cures their daughter. Living alone himself in a beach house with nothing but white wine, reheatable dinners and a fancy sound system to play classical music, Blake has only the comfort of going to work each day to keep him company.

Even there, he’s out of place surrounded by a nurse (Taraji P. Henson) who doesn’t defer to him, an orderly (Michael Pena) whose lack of decorum constantly dismays him, and a chief (Rob Morrow) uninterested in mentoring him, despite his best efforts to be respected by all three. Soon after believing he’s accidentally misdiagnosed a Mexican patient he can’t understand, Blake suddenly sees an opportunity for companionship when he’s invited over to the girl’s home and takes the time to switch her prescription without her knowledge, landing her back in the hospital, thus beginning an incredibly slippery ethical slide.

The film is actually reminiscent of “Shattered Glass,” which subverted the image of its leading man (Hayden Christensen) as the matinee idol who can be trusted simply because how could someone so clean cut not be? But it’s also the lack of charisma that such types are usually criticized for that becomes an asset, the blankness that lets them recede into the background even if they’re at the center of the frame, because first you’d never suspect them of anything, let alone imagine they think about anyone but themselves. Bloom doesn’t necessarily project this, though his past résumé is a string of films that has failed to pull out of him what he delivers in “The Good Doctor,” a person who is constantly thinking about others, not just of what they think of him, but as a way of deflecting attention from the unfortunate life of solitude he’s carved out for himself.

It’s a character study grafted onto a thriller and not only is Bloom game, but he brings with him an unusual group of collaborators that make it unsettling in all the right ways. Directing his first American film, Lance Daly, who previously helmed the excellent and completely unsentimental Irish love story “Kisses,” shoots much of the film at a remove, observing Blake’s descent without really commenting on it with any ornamentation until the final act, making the antiseptic aesthetic not just a practical choice to depict hospital life, but a creative one as it reflects the gray area of the doctor’s behavior before it all very much turns to black.

A couple niggling plot details prevent a full embrace of the film – for some reason, Diane doesn’t attend the dinner that she’s said to have wanted set up for Blake, and later on, J.K. Simmons comes around as an investigator who’s not a particularly strong interrogator. Yet “The Good Doctor” is too entertaining to dismiss for those reasons alone. It may be an unhealthy pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless.

“The Good Doctor” currently does not have U.S. distribution, but will play the Tribeca Film Festival on April 26th and 30th and May 1st.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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