The Good Doctor: Film Review

The Good Doctor Film Still Orlando Bloom - P 2011
Dale Robinette
A risk-averse film about an out-of-bounds, not so good doctor with pernicious hidden talents.

Orlando Bloom leads this psychosexual film that is less about medicine than the banality of evil.

Orlando Bloom, playing a first year medical resident with an important piece of equipment missing from his kit, craves worship and goes to extraordinary, psychopathic lengths to get it in The Good Doctor, a tense, psychosexual film that could make people think twice before checking into a hospital. Bloom has a following from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and as a leading man in light romantic comedy, but he’s a long way from either of those personas in this outing, and without other big-name stars, the doctor’s box office prognosis is only fair.

Directed with a measure of ironic detachment by Irishman Lance Daly (Kisses), working from a competent screenplay with elements of black comedy by John Enbom, the film, set in the flawed paradise of Southern California, is less about medicine than the banality of evil and the narcissism of Dr. Martin Blake (Bloom), an outwardly courteous young doctor whose ambition and homicidal tendencies are masked by his good manners and pallid affectless exterior. Early on, following a serious mistake with a patient, there are hints he may be a calculating impostor but, in a deftly handled shift, it turns out he’s a far more sinister breed.

Blake blows a gasket when he becomes obsessed with the teenage Diane, an angelic-looking, blue-eyed blond patient (well played by Riley Keough), whose vulnerability and girlish flirting trigger his famished ego. Invited to dinner at her grateful parents’ home, he spikes her meds to ensure her return to the hospital. Once there and again under his “care,” he takes steps that lead to her becoming mortally ill. He’s surprisingly cunning and adept at covering his tracks but, when an orderly (Michael Pena) blackmails him with incriminating evidence, his criminality escalates.

With his cheap sport jackets and antisocial tendencies, Blake doesn’t seem like a candidate for advancement but ruthlessness and an absence of conscience have their advantages as does being a blank slate; others project onto him what they want to see. He manages to allay the suspicions of a vigilant, in-your-face nurse (a feisty Taraji P. Henson), whom he feels superior to, and snookers his supervising physician (Rob Morrow in an odd, underwritten part).

The film is most enjoyable when Blake careens out of control, hurtling down stairwells in a full-on panic, furtively stealing hospital supplies, poisoning pharmaceuticals or climbing out of his bathroom window to escape a baffled, not terribly tenacious police detective (the always reliable J.K. Simmons.) But Enbom’s overly cautious script and Bloom’s recessive portrayal offer too few clues to the origins of the doctor’s behavior to make him understandable and, by not heightening the horror aspects of the story, Daly doesn’t go far enough to give the audience a satisfying jolt of danger and dramatic kick.

Yaron Orbach’s cinematography conveys Blake’s isolation—he’s often framed alone in shots on deserted streets, in empty hallways or gazing out to sea on an expansive stretch of beach, and is rarely buffeted by the traffic of a busy hospital. Some scenes appear washed out, a metaphor for the unreality of the outside world and the people who inhabit it for a man trapped inside his head.

Brian Byrne’s subtle score ranges from romantic to unsettling and production designer Eve Cauley Turner’s bland institutional settings are spot on, especially the rendition of the doctor’s impersonal, all-white, beachside apartment, which is as sterile as a laboratory primed for pathology.

Venue: Mill Valley Film Festival (Magnolia Pictures).
The bottom line: A risk-averse film about an out-of-bounds, not so good doctor with pernicious hidden talents.
Production companies: A Code Red Presentation of a King/Etheridge production in association with Viddywell Prods.; Fastnet Films.
Cast: Orlando Bloom, Riley Keough, Taraji P. Henson, Rob Morrow, Michael Pena, Troy Garity, Molly Price, Wade Williams, J.K. Simmons.
Director: Lance Daly
Screenwriter: John Enbom
Producer: Orlando Bloom, Dan Etheridge, Jonathan King
Executive producer: Orlando Bloom, Leonid Lebedev, Sharon Miller
Director of photography: Yaron Orbach
Production designer: Eve Cauley Turner
Music: Brian Byrne
Costume designer: Jill Newell
Editor: Emer Reynolds
Sales Agent: Voltage Pictures, Los Angeles
PG-13 Rating, 91 minutes