In "The Doctor," Jack MacKee (Hurt), a cold professional, knows cardiovascular surgery but has little sympathy (or heart) for his patients, or in his shallow relationship with devoted wife Anne (Lahti) and young son Nicky (Korsmo). He's too self-involved to take interest in his son, or to support his wife's work. His own work is his whole life, but even there, he fails to connect with other human beings.(( Charming and intelligent, his dry wit draws laughs from everyone around him. But his jokes also keep people at bay, and he blithely avoids his patient's worries. A mastectomy patient asks advice when her husband can't fully accept her operation; MacKee dismisses her with a joke. When MacKee himself is diagnosed with throat cancer and subjected to the same indignities as every other patient, he suddenly has to wait too long for his own doctor, who tells him bluntly what's wrong, and won't hear his questions. Suddenly, being a doctor doesn't give him any privileges.
At home, his son is too busy to be concerned, and he can't now feel close to his wife, although she tries to bridge the gap. Eventually, he meets and has a platonic friendship with a young woman patient (Perkins) with a brain tumor; she helps him understand how to deal with what he's going through. Yet MacKee's new sensitivity doesn't easily fit his life.
"The Doctor" could have been a little movie about a professional whose personal crisis teaches him to slow down, but Randa Haines' ("Children of a Lesser God") intelligent direction, the solid script by Robert Caswell ("A Cry in the Dark"), and Hurt's brilliant, crafted performance all explore the character so well that the viewer comes to understand him. (
There are other wonderful performances here as well, especially by Elizabeth Perkins, whose part could have been a cliche; she gives it dignity and wit. Lahti is superb as the long-suffering wife who can't get past her husband's facade; Patinkin is MacKee's professional partner whose unethical procedures later haunt him, and Arkin is a compassionate surgeon for whom MacKee now feels deep respect, despite his lack of MacKee's easy humor.(( "The Doctor" is a highly entertaining film for anyone who's ever been to a doctor or had to stay at a hospital.
Adapted from Ed Rosenbaum, M.D.'s autobiography, A Taste of My Own Medicine
William Hurt, Christine Lahti, Elizabeth Perkins, Mandy Patinkin, Adam Arkin, and Charlie
Ed Rosenbaum, M.D.; bedside manner; redemption of an arrogan
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