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The Doctor
The Doctor
Actors: William Hurt, Christine Lahti, Elizabeth Perkins, Mandy Patinkin, Adam Arkin
Director: Randa Haines
Genres: Drama
PG-13     2004     2hr 2min

Reunited for the first time since their Academy Award(R)-nominated CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD, screen favorite William Hurt and director Randa Haines team up for another successful collaboration in THE DOCTOR. Oscar(R)-winni...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: William Hurt, Christine Lahti, Elizabeth Perkins, Mandy Patinkin, Adam Arkin
Director: Randa Haines
Creators: John Seale, Bruce Green, Edward S. Feldman, Laura Ziskin, Michael S. Glick, Ed Rosenbaum, Robert Caswell
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Drama
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 04/06/2004
Original Release Date: 07/24/1991
Theatrical Release Date: 07/24/1991
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 2hr 2min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 18
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A dose of your own medicine
Patrick Thompson | Sydney, NSW Australia | 02/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"After getting over the initial shock of seeing half the cast of Chicago Hope (when it was still a good show...and not the pale imitation of itself that it later became: Alan Arkin, Mandy Patinkin, Christine Lahti), this movie evolves into a fine, quiet, character driven drama. There are no great heroics, apart from June (Elizabeth Perkins), and even those are real, not manipulative, cliched, corny or obvious.This is a movie that works to develop its characters and plot simultaneously and without artifice or obvious (groanable/cringe inducing) plot devices. None of them are in anwyay what you would call 'extreme' or cliched. They are just very normal people placed is a very stressful situation- the doctor being diagnosed with a growth in his throat and the changes in many lives this growth causes. The changes are both good, bad and 'educational' for most of them. The subplot- hospitals, statistics, malpractice cases, protecting each other- is subdued, never moralized or sermonized on but explored in a way whereby you can make your own judgements, based on some realistics situations (imagine a situation where somebody's life was worth less than $1000). The cast compliment each other and really connect. This movie is quite subtle at times and doesn't use in your face methods to make a point.This is a movie then that is honest, beautifully made, accessible and at times really funny, and at times really raw and saddening. It isn't an episode of ER. So if you're looking for high medical drama look elsewhere. But if you're looking for real multi-layered human drama then look here. Honesty is the key word and theme in the movie (which if you watch it you'll understand what I mean). Honesty to oneself, others and just to the concept in general. And how too, sometimes we find spiritual and psychological 'healing' in the midst of the greatest physical peril. The DVD contains no special features, only the movie, scene selection and set-up. Though it was made in 1990, it doesn't look too dated (apart from the cell-phones). I have to admit watching this movie, I looked at the clock on the DVD player and actually hoped it wouldn't end. How many movies can you say that about?I think the best moment in the story is when the doctor reads the story June gave him. I think there is a lesson in that that is relevant to all of us. Hopefully you'll get the opportunity to see what I mean by watching this movie.SO in all, a brilliant, engrossing, poignant and real human drama built around believeable characters doing normal things and suffering typical tragedies that are enormous in our own lives. These are people we can understand and relate to, not the superficial and stereotypical larger-than-life, weirder-than-fiction characters designed to play with our minds and strum on our heartstrings. These people do touch your heart and mind for the right reasons...And maybe, if only for a moment, it causes you to question and reassess how you deal with others and the face you present the world, then maybe it has helped heal you a little bit too...If you need it, as most of us do."
A good film on the importance of being actual people
Craig Matteson | Ann Arbor, MI | 03/06/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This movie was made from a book by a doctor who told his own story about becoming ill and learning about the medical profession and its dehumanizing qualities by becoming a patient. It caused quite a stir at the time and this movie was quite popular when it came out. William Hurt plays the successful, brilliant, but cold heart surgeon, Dr. Jack MacKee. He and his beautiful wife, Anne (played so well by Christine Lahti), live a materially comfortable but emotionally detached existence with their son, Nicky.

Dr. Jack has been ignoring a raspy throat and cough until he coughs up blood. Soon, he is diagnosed with a tumor on one of his vocal cords. He becomes the patient of Dr. Leslie Abbott who is even colder than him, she is talented but sees only problems to fix, the person exists to her only as something to bring her the illness to cure. The doctors in this film are largely all of the same stripe. They are supreme problem solvers who avoid any involvement with the people they are treating. The one exception, and an object of ridicule of the other doctors is Dr. Eli Blumfield (portrayed very nicely by Adam Arkin).

As a patient, the unhuman sterility of the hospital and its policies become clear to Dr. Jack as he is treated as a container for the problem the doctors are to fix. One of the things all patients do is wait, and then wait, and then wait some more. While he is thus engaged in waiting helplessly for treatment he meets another patient, June Ellis (heroically played by Elizabeth Perkins). She is dying of a grade IV glioblastoma (a type of brain tumor). One of her complaints is that they should have found her tumor sooner. At first, Dr. Jack does the "team" thing by refusing to admit that they should have and giving her false hope with a lie about a patient in a similar condition who is now a grandfather.

As an aside, one of my family members died of a grade IV glioblastoma. It doesn't matter when they diagnose the patient. The treatments they offer are all about stalling death, not preventing it. In nearly all cases, the patient will die within a year. June's lack of functional deficit and lack of a surgical scar on her scalp are all dramatic license to help keep June completely sympathetic (gruesome is not sympathetic). Her head is shaved, but radiation treatment does not leave the scalp with a neatly shaved look. The hair falls out unevenly, and the high does of radiation often leaves the skin reddened and raw from being burned. There is no reason to hold back on the radiation dose, since it was all a Hail Mary kind of treatment. I hope the treatments have gotten better since 1999 and that someday real hope can be offered those afflicted with this miserable condition. The one great lesson life offers during this time is how little is needed to find life precious. We spend so much time putting conditions on our happiness that we cheat ourselves of so much. This kind of illness takes away the ability to even have good days and eventually even good hours. Good moments become wonderful and intensely full of life. Something as simple as a chicken salad sandwich and lemon poppyseed cake with a can of Vernors can provide an exquisitely memorable moment. The movie captures this to a degree, but not as powerfully as it can happen in real life.

Anyway, June becomes the means to Dr. Jack finding his humanity and becoming a better person and doctor. It is nice that the screenplay has Dr. Jack finding his way in a very uneven and often frustrating way. The movie ends with a kind of dramatic gag that rewards the audience for following an often grim story all the way through.

Good movie, good notes for all people - including medical professionals - to take about the importance of treating those with whom we interact on a daily basis as real people rather than as an impersonal piece of business."
Moral, moving, and marvellous movie... | Bristol, UK | 04/02/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Every doctor - and every patient! - should see this movie; the difference is that, not all doctors will understand *why* they should see it..I use The Doctor when teaching my medical students how to avoid becoming a certain kind of doctor; the kind who is so detached from humanity that they never feel anything of the pain, fear - and the hope - that their patients feel. They have forgotten how to care, and they don't care to remember it.This is a film about a medical `Everyman`; Jack (played by William Hurt with great integrity and skill)is redeemed as a human being - and as a doctor - by his own experience of serious illness, and by that of his friend - her death frees him from the blinkers of self-absorption. The scene where the two of them dance in the Nevada desert is breathtaking. Supporting cast are excellent; especially Mandy Patinkin as Jack's unscrupulous surgical partner. Jack's initially dysfunctional family life is a central part of this movie, and the roles of his wife and son are well played. The last scenes are amongst the best; especially where Jack is explaining to his interns why they are going to spend the next 24 hours not as doctors, but as hospital patients - wearing hospital gowns, undergoing all the appropriate tests, and (horror of horrors) eating hospital food. The following and final scene is simply beautiful, as Jack stands on the roof of the hospital and dances by himself, revived and renewed.Anyone involved in medical or healthcare education should have this video - and use it! Others should watch it to understand better what can happen to medical students along the way to becoming doctors."
A personal experience/ A must see movie
Bufford D. Moore | Baytown, Texas USA | 04/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I recently had a chance to see the Doctor again, albeit with different eyes. The basic story line regards a cardiovascular surgeon, technically brillant but bereft of human touch. Indeed, initially, he seems somewhat proud of his aloof stance, almost trying to make it into an advantage. He relates to his patients and residents as I have seen many physicians do. Truthfully, the more awful the diagnosis, the more at arms length many physicians hold the situation. Physicians routinely mention that a patient might die, but it's rarely really true and gets mentioned as a matter of fact. When death is really a possibility, it is much harder to say that you might die. Dr McKee comes face to face with this when he becomes the patient, diagnosed with a malignant laryngeal tumor he faces the rigors of radiation treatment and when this fails surgery. He finds that the standoffish posture he had always adopted no longer worked, and the impersonal surgeon he has no longer can do all the things he needs done, both surgically and emotionally.
I had to come face to face with some of these issues when I had to have heart surgery. Truthfully, the hospitals involved did treat me with some preference, but the fears and risks were the same. I learned first hand about the reticence of surgeons to talk about a real risk of death. My surgeon left a blank consent for me to sign. I dutifully filled out the consent including risks and benefits, like a good resident. I missed the chance to look him in the eye and tell him that I trusted him with my life, all the while realizing that it would have made him uncomfortable.... it always makes me uncomfortable. See, while we all realize that what we do carries significant risks, surgeons in the US are very well trained and do very good work. We all tend to assume that things will go very well; and they so often do that we tend to forget that they might not. We become uncomfortable when we realize that just those things are what patients are focused on, just those chances that things might not go well.
Everybody needs the human touch. Even when they seem not to want it.

See the movie. There are times that it's uncomfortable, but that's how it is sometimes, isn't it?"