Monday, September 3, 2012

The Good Doctor

A character study in search of a character, the badly overheated medical drama “The Good Doctor” stars a toned-down Orlando Bloom as Martin Blake, a young doctor from Britain starting an assignment at a hospital in West L.A. Martin quickly – and inexplicably – becomes obsessed with Diane Nixon, a barely-legal kidney patient (blank-faced Riley Keough), hurdling doctor-patient boundaries like Edwin Moses: he first accepts her family’s invitation to dinner, then switches out her meds so her condition worsens (she seems rather glad of it), then worse, much worse. (He also turns his apartment into a pharm lab to make Oxy to placate the orderly who gets hold of Diane’s diary.)

The fatal flaw of “The Good Doctor” is that we know nothing about who Martin is, what instincts and feelings motivate his behavior. The casting of Bloom, always a cipher, exacerbates rather than ameliorates the problem. Several talented actors, and Rob Morrow, are wasted in underwritten roles: Taraji P. Henson, so moving in “Benjamin Button,” gets the thankless role of a bitchy nurse, while Michael Peña, so funny in last year’s “30 Minutes or Less,” is the aforementioned orderly. (J.K. Simmons does best with his few minutes of screen time as a cop investigating a death at the hospital, though at this point, Simmons pretty much plays himself every time out.)

“The Good Doctor” is plot-heavy, more a treatment than a fleshed-out movie. (Several scenes will have you screaming “SCRIPT!”) It does not so much shift in tone from scene to scene as lurch. It does not seem to take place in a city recognizable as Los Angeles, or necessarily the real world. We are to believe that this young doctor has never before lost a patient, an experience he undoubtedly underwent dozens of times during medical school. The conclusion is foregone after an exchange between Martin and Diane half an hour in.

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