Unable to wait to review this latest HBO Films offering, just a few days ago I searched for the dvd to no avail. Here it is and I'm already umpteenth on the list to review.
This is a damned good film, just absolutely quality. One query I have: why isn't Hollyweird making these anymore?--good movies, I mean. What, is HBO Films taking over now that the sign's going?
Thank God for these favors. Al Pacino hits this performance out of the ballpark, and anyone paying attention will have noted Dr. Kevorkian saying when he first saw clips, he thought it was himself, not Pacino. THAT is good. That gives you an idea of the workings of this film. Though it is difficult to get to know a man like Dr. Kevorkian, Pacino makes us feel like we are in the room with him.
Admit it, who would pass that up?
This film, with its tense, up-close-and-personal shots, with its flashbacks and Pacino cleverly inserted into some (not all) of Dr. Kevorkian's "video consultations", this film is a slice of life and a piece of cake...something Hitchcock never could do. Not that it is Hitchcockian. Levinson knows better than trying to do that. There's no shortage of talent here...the other reviews spell out nicely all the great work by John Goodman, Brenda Vacarro, Danny Huston (I don't care for him at all but he's good here) and Susan Sarandon, one of my all-time favorites. The extras are mind-blowing. When was the last time you could say that about a movie?
The acting in this film reminds me of the best films of the 1940s and 1950s, many of those starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. Pacino's Kevorkian keeps a plucky humor laced throughout even the saddest moments, as does Brenda V. as his sister Margot Janus.
As another reviewer said, this is the doctor I'd like at my side when that time comes for me. It hits us, especially with this film, that will never happen. I think one flaw in this film was not showing more of the outside world and the results of the good doctor's work.
For example, it is illegal to assist in a suicide. Also I was a bit saddened by some other salient facts that for legal reasons could not be depicted. This film is also missing a certain richness in Dr. Kevorkian's life: his incredible genius as an artist, a composer, inventor and lay expert on the U.S. Constitution...especially his love for the 9th Amendment. It is alsoa bit depressing to see that his backstory was avoided, such as his brilliance in pathology and his 7 published books. Innumerable scientific papers fall into the mix that is this man's genius.
He also bravely ran for Congress in his home state of Michigan in 2008. Incredible!
Well, Dr. Kevorkian himself has said, "Doctors are cowards." And so they are, and so we learn from this great film. I see lots of lists, all the films you should see before you die...well, this is THE film to see before you die. With Pacino literally mutating into Kevorkian (though he's too heavy on the Michigan accent), one can feel his presence and his contributions.
A few final words. I'm so tired of these great films not having chances at Oscars. I love that I can see them when they are made and released--I love that TV is improving thereby, no waiting or rescheduling. Even if it's only HBO. I love the fact I can get the dvd within a reasonable period (there's no force that will stop me adding this to my collection).
Finally, HBO has to get its share of the kudos. They have given us so much throughout the decades, but this past few years have been phenomenal. They have given us JOHN ADAMS, TEMPLE GRANDIN, and so many others I cannot list here because I can't recall them all (but I have reviewed most)--HBO really can be the best in cable. It's been there with us like a silent but devoted relative all these decades. Name a short list of your favorite films. I'll bet cash that an HBO Film will be one of them.
If HBO keeps up the fine work, there will be no need for Hollywood soon. And finally, keep your eyes peeled for HBO Films' 2010 documentary KEVORKIAN, about the good doctor's 2008 Congressional race. Well done and beautifully filmed.