Tuesday, January 19, 2010


There's an article about CBS Films in today's New York Times that centers on Friday's release of Extraordinary Measures, an uplifting true-life medical thriller starring Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser. The cynic in me says that if the movie were truly extraordinary it would be released in a more happening month, but no matter. What nagged at me is an offhand dig at Lorenzo's Oil, a fact-based movie with a similar bucking-the-medical-establishment theme.

"Medical tales, especially involving children, can veer dangerously close to schmaltz. One misstep and you could have Lorenzo’s Oil, the 1993 film about a boy with a rare disease that was well reviewed at the time but has become the industry’s go-to example of overdone sentimentality."

First off: Lorenzo's Oil was released in 1992. Besides being well-reviewed, it was nominated for two Oscars, and should have been up for more. Co-written and directed by an actual doctor, George Miller, it's one of the most gripping dramas I've seen, and there's not an ounce of sentimentality in it. If anything, its boxoffice was limited by it being too clinical, too "depressing." Yes, there are scenes where Lorenzo's Catholic parents (extraordinarily well-played by nominee Susan Sarandon and Nick Nolte) break down in frustration and even beg their son to "fly to Jesus" if his silent suffering becomes too unbearable, but these are hardly overdone after what we've experienced. If this is "schmaltz," I'd wish we'd see more of it on our screens.

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