Airdate: 9-11 p.m., Sat., Oct. 18 (Lifetime)
"Living Proof" is the kind of L.A. story you can't help but love. Dubbed a "Red Carpet Movie Event," the Lifetime original movie charts the rocky but rewarding course of UCLA professor and doctor Dennis Slamon, who over a long, embattled period of time developed the drug Herceptin, which eventually would save the lives of countless breast cancer patients. Given its long-and-winding-road format, the movie does bog down a bit in pace, but on the whole it never misses its target: to let viewers know just how it took a village of concerned individuals to get Slamon the money and support he needed to continue his research.
Slamon began his research (well, at least began to get noticed for it) in the late 1980s while working as a UCLA oncologist. In this always compelling movie based on real-life events, his experiments are endless and getting pretty expensive. All looks lost in the way of continued financial support until Slamon's friend Lilly Tartikoff (Angie Harmon), wife of TV exec Brandon Tartikoff (whom Slamon helped in his battle against cancer), gets involved and starts raising money for Slamon. The rest is history and headline-making news events.
If nothing else, we're kept pretty busy just keeping tabs on the long list of familiar faces that come and go in the movie. Harry Connick Jr. plays Slamon with his typical panache and charm. It's often hard to take your eyes off Connick, even when he's not saying much. The camera just likes him, and he exudes his usual charm in a role that doesn't demand all that much of him. He's supported by Harmon as well as Tammy Blanchard, Bernadette Peters, Amy Madigan, Amanda Bynes, Jennifer Coolidge and Swoosie Kurtz.
"Living Proof" looks like a labor of love with its intimate view of just how celebrity culture operates in Los Angeles and ultimately the good it can do for ordinary folks who have hit a tragic moment in their lives. But there is much to comprehend in Vivienne Radkoff's intelligent and complex script, which is based on the book "Her-2," by Robert Bazell. Director Dan Ireland has lots to do, choreographing a nonstop flow of characters who move in and out of scenes as well as giving each of them an intimacy the viewer needs so as to connect.
There's no doubt this story is about heroics: heroic people and heroic actions. Yet the movie tries with much success to merge heroism with celebrity, not often happy soul mates. With its leisurely pace and its no-nonsense attitude about its subject matter, "Living Proof" makes for awfully good storytelling.
Production: Storyline Entertainment in association with Sony Pictures Television for Lifetime Television
Cast: Harry Connick Jr., Angie Harmon, Bernadette Peters, Swoosie Kurtz, Tammy Blanchard
Director: Dan Ireland
Writer: Vivienne Radkoff
Executive producers: Vivienne Radkoff, Renee Zellweger, Craig Zadan, Neil Meron