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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Doctor

Physician, heal thyself

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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September 24, 1991 -- ``The Doctor'' is one of the best new Hollywood films to hit town in recent months.

One expects a top-flight performance when William Hurt's name appears in the cast of a film and this film does not disappoint. Hurt is one of the best actors in Hollywood and he proves it again, playing an emotionally detached doctor who contracts throat cancer.

When Hurt becomes a patient in the very same hospital where he is a resident physician he learns what it is like to be treated as a number, a practice he has been guilty of. He had preached to interns that detachment and objectivity were the keys to proper medical care. He begins to realize these tools do not help the patient, but rather they serve to protect the doctor.

He has protected himself from everyone with an envelope of emotional numbness for so long that he doubts his ability to reach out to anyone again. But when he meets a young woman in the radiation treatment waiting room who has a brain tumor he is able to make contact with her. He then learns to care for his patients as human beings.

While not terribly original, this story of redemption is smartly-written, deftly-directed and convincingly acted. We get to know the characters well and the life within a large metropolitan hospital is portrayed in a very captivating way. The wacky and gruesome operating room humor is especially funny and revealing.

Hurt, of course has played a character like this before. In ``Accidental Tourist,'' he played a father who had withdrawn into a shell after the death of his son.

Also performing well in the film are Christine Lahti as the doctor's wife and Elizabeth Perkins as the other cancer patient who finally gets through to the doctor.

Some have compared the plot of this movie to ``Regarding Henry,'' but while there are some similarities, there are also a lot of differences. In ``Henry'' the transformation of the character is achieved by a catastrophic injury. In ``The Doctor,'' the change is more gradual and subtle. One film is about a dramatically changed person, the other is a dramatic story of the process of gradual change from inhumanity to humanity.

This is definitely an above average film, it rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)