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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Critical Care (1997)



Reviews and Comments

How do you set a comedy in an intensive care unit and remain within the bounds of good taste? It's not easy, and yet this question never once occurred to me while I was watching the film. I'm not sure I know how director Sidney Lumet did it, but I know that he did. This is a surprisingly intelligent, low-key film that mixes black comedy with some thought-provoking questions about euthanasia.

An old man is in a coma, kept alive by machines. One daughter wants to end his suffering; the other wants to keep him alive. Driven by the threat of an imminent lawsuit, the hospital's lawyers discover the daughters may be up to no good. Meanwhile, the patient's doctor finds himself in trouble when he's caught giving unprofessional advice. As I say, the comedy is black -- it's played straight on the surface, yet there's the periodic hint in the performances that suggests this is all a grand joke at someone's -- anyone's -- expense.

The best supporting member of the cast is Albert Brooks, recognizable behind glasses and shaggy a gray beard from his mannerisms. He has all the best lines, where are not only hilarious but, in a skewed, twisted sort of way, insightful. Call them an expression of candidly distasteful ideas put so delightfully that their eloquence upstages their cause. Or something.