Magnolia Pictures // 2011 // 91 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis (Retired) // January 14th, 2013
Do no harm.
Ask me about The Good Doctor in a year and I virtually guarantee that I will have forgotten all about it. That isn't the mark of a bad movie; indeed, I'd probably better remember it if it was really poor. Instead, it's just bland and mediocre, which might be the worst thing of all. There are things to like about the film, and some will likely enjoy it very much, but like the film's star, Orlando Bloom (Elizabethtown), it's basically a movie without a face that can be taken or left without consequence and, with that ringing endorsement, the film arrives on Blu-ray from Magnolia Home Entertainment.
Martin Blake (Bloom) is a young British doctor in residency at an American hospital. He wants to grow into the best doctor he can, but he doesn't get the respect from the nurses and staff that he thinks he should. He questions his choices until one day when a young woman named Diane Nixon (Riley Keough, The Runaways) is admitted with a kidney infection. She reveres him, flirts with him, and Blake starts to take a special interest in her case. That interest soon turns to dangerous obsession as he starts devising ways to keep her in the hospital.
Dr. Blake is a kind of antihero. You know what he's doing is desperate and wrong, but the character is just pathetic enough to elicit a little bit of sympathy from the audience. There's just a hint of creepiness, with Diane so young and all, but they only barely breach any kind of sexuality between the two; maybe a mutual crush, but that's all. Still, it's enough to feel inappropriate and enough to start developing the tension when Blake starts his machinations to make her even sicker.
It seems like, romantic feelings aside, Blake wants to worsen Diane's condition so she'll look at him like a savior and, more than that, so his colleagues will look at him as a miracle worker, a real doctor. In a way, he succeeds in this, though he doesn't succeed with Diane, but in both cases he takes everything way too far. After starting down his path, though, there's no turning back, so he must become further bankrupt ethically when an orderly (Michael Pena, Everything Must Go) finds Diane's diary and threatens Blake with it, unless Blake score him prescription drugs. While complicit in the score, it sends Blake over the edge to a place from which he cannot escape.
At times, The Good Doctor is quite interesting. There are moments of strong chemistry between Bloom and Keough, mostly because of her exceedingly lungful glance, and some bits of good suspense. The story is shallow, though, and often very weakly rendered. Unlikely scenarios become major plot points without any reference to how they could have occurred. That Blake is able to carry out any of his plotting is dubious unless this hospital is one of the worst monitored facilities in the country. Authorities don't put the pieces together and it's not enough to say the doctor was so innocuous that he couldn't have elicited suspicion; that's not the way these things work. But they're all just left hanging. Blake does this. Then, Blake does that. Then, Blake does this other thing. They are all pieces of the plot, but they aren't made to make sense; they are made to simply occur and move on.
Many will extol the virtues of Orlando Bloom's performance and, though he deserves some credit for playing against type, he doesn't go all that far with it. Yes, he's the villain in the movie and, yes, nearly everything he does is totally despicable, so he isn't the lovable rogue we've come to expect in his roles. But he's milquetoast as a hero and milquetoast as a villain. He's a bowl of Minute Rice; satisfying in the moment, but entirely lacking in substance or heft. Riley Keough deserves a lot more credit for her quiet and funny innocence as the patient. The depths of her character are hardly explored, but there's enough in her face and her voice to elicit a lot more feeling than anything Bloom does in the entire film.
Director Lance Daly (Kisses) does a decent job, making a sterile-looking film on a relatively low budget. The writing isn't terribly convincing and many of the performances lack anything particularly memorable, but it's a nice looking picture. The Good Doctor isn't bad, but it's not particularly good, either. Mostly, it's just there, a thriller for the sake of releasing a thriller, with little driving it and even less within its lead character for me to care.
Magnolia's Blu-ray for The Good Doctor comes in a decent, no-frills edition. The 1.85:1/1080p image transfer represents the intentions of the film fairly well, with strong natural colors and decent black levels. The problem is in the image detail. Because the film was shot on 16mm, the overall level of grain is pretty apparent. It looks filmic, which is very much the intention, but it stunts the potential for clarity. Still, it's represented as intended, so it's hard to complain too much. The 5.1 Master Audio track is similar in kind. It's a soft mix and not terribly dynamic, but there aren't any problems with noise or lack of definition.
The extras are slight, with a half-hour making-of featurette being the only one of any quality. Here, the actors and director talk a little about their intentions with the characters and the movie as a whole, with Orlando Bloom doing much of the talking. A second, much shorter featurette is essentially an edit to the previous one, which is totally worthless, and a trailer for the films rounds out the disc.
My feelings about The Good Doctor are the same as my feelings for Orlando Bloom. This a skillful production, occasionally thrilling and often thought-provoking. It's just so bland, making it hard to care about or condemn the film or its star. Soon I will forget all about it. You can skip it as easily as watch and remain unchanged either way.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13