The Doctor Review

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Jack McKee is a doctor with it all: he's successful, he's rich, and he has no problems.... until he is diagnosed with throat cancer


Belonging firmly in the New Man genre in which the selfish hero is redeemed by suffering, The Doctor received raves in the U.S. and gave a much-needed boost to the recent fortunes of William Hurt. Here he is an arrogant, patronizing, obnoxious, wealthy San Francisco surgeon who preaches detachment to medical students.

À la MAS*H and St. Elsewhere he tells jokes and boogies to loud music tapes over the bodies of opened-up patients. Then he comes down with the Big C and is transformed — into an arrogant, patronizing, obnoxious patient. There is certainly vicarious pleasure in the film — adapted from a real doctor’s autobiographical book A Taste Of My Own Medicine — watching Hurt’s cold Jack MacKee at the mercy of the medical system.

He has a gallows sense of humour at the best of times, so he gets off a few good cracks once the Grim Reaper’s closing in and he discovers the indignities of sitting in waiting rooms for hours, meeting rude staff, getting the wrong “procedures” and being treated like a moron by his arrogant, patronizing doctor.

There are, though, few surprises on his journey through chemotherapy, surgery and confrontation with death, as one dedicated sawbones shows him a caring, sharing style of doctoring and plucky terminal fellow patient Elizabeth Perkins loses her hair and teaches him the meaning of life. After a while Dr. MacKee’s moaning is irritating for veterans of the embattled N.H.S., since he at least is in a hospital that looks like an art gallery, and every time he needs an operation it’s scheduled for the next day.

But he does discover that patients have names and feelings and stuff, it’s all very slickly done, and the tears will come unbidden. And if you’re having trouble kicking cigarettes, this ought to help.

A solid performance from Hurt is backed up with a reverent story. A good outing by star and director.