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Critical Care

A refreshing medical comedic-drama and courtroom showdown full of Brooks' broad humor, with a touch of sexual blackmail and a heart-rending subplot of a terminally-ill patient who believes he sees the devil, "Critical Care' looks at how insurance dictates modern medical care, and shows ethics and income colliding. In ICU, Bed 5 is in "a persistent vegetative state," and his two daughters argue whether to pull the plug, especially after hospital staff claim their father's hand is trembling in Morse code, "If you love me.' Young Dr. Ernst (Spader) asks old Dr. Butz (Brooks): "What's wrong? Three insurance companies pay his monthly bills," but wonders if they should use artificial means of to feed him. Butz is outraged. "Do you think just because someone's going to die, we shouldn't feed him? We're all gonna to die! Why should anyone eat?'

Ernst, an exhausted third-year intern and a geek until he got "M.D.' after his name, is belatedly enjoying an active sex life. We also meet Intensive Care Nurse Stella (Mirren), in charge of Bed 5, and the two warring daughters, sexpot Felicia (Sedgwick), and the religious Connie (Martindale). Increasing a sense of surrealism, the ICU is washed by white light, and shows us only two patients; we eavesdrop on their problems.

One (Wright), after rejected two kidneys, has lost the will to live, but is being kept alive, despite his pain, because the hospital can profitably transplant kidneys into him indefinitely. He gets pep talks from Furnaceman (Shawn), who tempts him to die, and a good nun (Bancroft) who offers him hope of reconciliation. A sober counterpoint to Bed 5's drama, Dr. Ernst tussles with the patient's daughters and alcoholic Dr. Butz ("Just make sure you don't have money for health care, and you'll die happy in your own kingsized bed!').

Ernst takes Felicia to dinner; then protests that medical ethics prevent him from talking about her father's case, but sex provides her the information she wants. Dutiful Connie swears her father will regain consciousness any minute. Is either daughter motivated by Bed 5's $10 million trust fund? Will Ernst's career end? The movie thrusts issues at us sharply and cynically.
Director(s): Sidney Lumet
Writer(s): Steven S. Schwartz, based on the book by Richard Dooling
Cast: James Spader, Kyra Sedgwick, Helen Mirren, Margo, Anne Bancroft, Albert Brooks, Jeffrey W
Release Date: 1997   
Keyword: Insurance; terminal care
Target Age: 17+   Category: institutional issues
Documentary: no
Language: English   Reviewer's Name: Micah
Review: http://MRQE
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