Review of The Good Doctor


Movie Review: "The Good Doctor"

-- Rating: PG-13 (some crude sexual content, disturbing situations, and thematic material)
Length: 91 minutes
Release Date: August 31, 2012
Directed by: Lance Daly
Genre: Drama/Thriller

"The Good Doctor" starts as a low-key character sketch of a young, isolated medical resident but quickly veers into a story of madness and obsession. While Orlando Bloom delivers a fine performance as the titular doctor, a poorly conceived plot makes it difficult to appreciate this film.

Dr. Martin Blake (Orlando Bloom) is only six days into his internal medicine residency when he meets a young female patient with a kidney disorder. The patient, Diane Nixon (Riley Keough), enjoys flirting with the lonely doctor and seems disappointed that her symptoms are easily cured. Dr. Blake is invited to eat dinner with the Nixon family, but Diane doesn't attend the family meal. When Dr. Blake realizes he won't see her again, he sabotages her medication to ensure her return to the hospital. This creepy bit of medical malpractice marks the beginning of Dr. Blake's machinations to keep Diane within his grasp.

Orlando Bloom gives a quiet, understated performance as the socially awkward Dr. Blake. Bloom's tense body language and blank visage effectively communicate why he is so isolated. Although Dr. Blake's actions become progressively more sinister and bizarre, Bloom never overacts, which makes his character all the more chilling.

As Diane, Riley Keough has the difficult job of being the object of Blake's obsession. Unfortunately, she's not able to overcome the weak script and does not deliver a performance that could beguile an audience. Although it's clear she's very pretty, there's nothing else in her performance that could establish why Blake is so interested in her.

Other supporting cast members deliver far more believable performances. Michael Peña is especially compelling as a drug-addicted orderly, who later blackmails Blake. The talented Taraji P. Henson is also criminally underused as a brassy nurse on the hospital staff. Rob Morrow has a fine supporting role as a hospital supervisor, who misinterprets Blake's actions as thoroughness on behalf of a patient.

John Enbom's script shows remarkable promise during its first act, which is devoted to establishing the character of the lonely Dr. Blake. The beginning of the film shows the audience Blake's sterile seaside apartment. The incredibly modern dwelling effectively communicates the inner life of the good doctor and looks more like a laboratory than a livable apartment. The script also demonstrates Blake's need to be respected and establishes why he doesn't receive the respect he seeks.

However, the script does not satisfactorily explain why Bloom's character quickly abandons all ethical considerations during the second and third acts. A carefully plotted screenplay might show a series of smaller ethical infractions that mark Blake's descent into sociopathy; instead, the plot takes a sharp turn into the bizarre almost immediately after Diane is introduced. The audience can imagine that Blake's antisocial, amoral tendencies were always lurking under the surface, but a good script wouldn't leave this important plot point to the audience's imagination. Instead, screen time is wasted with plot twists, police investigations, and blackmail schemes.

It's also never truly clear if it's sociopathy, a perverted crush, or an out-of-control urge for professional respect that governs Blake's choices. While all of these factors could contribute to Blake's behavior, the script never explains how Blake views his own actions. Does Blake think he's in love with Diane? Does he want to punish her, at least a little, for avoiding dinner after flirting with him? Or does Blake's desire to cure a seemingly incurable patient and gain professional respect really motivate his actions?

"The Good Doctor" is a departure for director Lance Daly, who has previously only directed his own screenplays. It's clear that Daly has some skill behind the camera; each shot is carefully framed and builds toward the film's conclusion. Audiences should also enjoy the striking visuals of a darkly clad Bloom against the white of the beach, the hospital, or his apartment. However, there are some absent pieces in the narrative puzzle that makes it difficult to endorse Daly's vision for this film.

Audiences who expect a traditional thriller may also be disappointed with the lack of action or pivotal scenes. Instead, the tension is carefully built through a series of small scenes that slowly increase the stakes. Coupled with the sparse, clean cinematography (which effectively reflects how Blake sees the world), this film owes more to Euro-style indie films than big-budget thrillers.

Fans of Orlando Bloom should make plans to see "The Good Doctor," which showcases one of his most interesting performances to date. However, audience members seeking a more traditional thriller may ultimately leave disappointed.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars