Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Review: You Don't Know Jack

Dr. Jack Kevorkian was and still is many things.

Oil Painter. 
Jazz musician
Arts enthusiast.
Right-to-die activist. 
Assisted suicide... uh, giver. 

Who's to tell really? But this movie tries to give you the clear details with Al Pacino and Barry Levinson at the helm. And it was effective. Swiftly accounting the life of Jack's work with the soon-to-be dead, this film stands as a biopic with class and interesting history behind it. Too many times, have we seen the same approach with musicians mostly; so it's nice to see it with a doctor and real pieces of U.S. medical history.

But wait! There's more!

How ironic is it that the stigma of serial killers is that they sometimes drive vans or the occasional v-dub bus (which is what he drives in the film). This man is a licensed physician (well, until a certain point). The intimate history of Jack K is laid out for us in this efficiant film of how it came to be, that "Doctor Death" was created.

Al Pacino stars as the spitting image of the Michigaini (can you call them that?) physician, with an accent so drippy you'd think he got lessons from Frances McDormand. He's never been older, never been more slightly senile, never been more stubborn-old-man-ish, and of course he's always as funny as he usual is. Which sometimes is an accident, because he's 9 times out of 10 a deadpan comedy artist, which is the best kind there is. 

Speaking of comedy, Danny Huston, who is quickly rising (or has already) through the ranks, is never better in this one. Staring as Kevorkian's fast-talking, quick-witted, always on-point lawyer, Geoffrey Fieger. I'd venture to say (speaking of Venture, James Urbaniak who voices Dr. Venture on the Venture Bros. makes a nice appearance as the reporter covering Jack's exploits) that he has the two funniest lines on the film. The one thing that Danny Huston can do, is make you believe he's the most qualified sucka doin' it, and there won't ever be anyone as good as him after he's done. 

We have Johnny Bravos' mother, Brenda Vaccaro, as Dr. K's sister Margo Janus who does a good job standing behind her brother. John Goodman playing chemical armorer Neal Nicol (who's real life character wrote some of this film to add the facts hopefully) and Susan Sarandon as fellow right-to-die activist Janet Good. 

While in and out of jail, refusing to pay his bond and even eat while incarcerated, Levinson balances the facts and humor injections with along to Marcelo Zarvos' score(taking notes from Thomas Newman?). Marcelo always makes the film a little more warmer, and darker every time I hear his stuff. This film is a typical Levinson film, which is another way to say it was funny and artistically proficient. Going from De Niro in the hilarious What Just Happened to Pacino in this, Levinson has not lost his edge and I hope to see more. I'm sure once the Emmy's, GG's and other's come around, Pacino, Levinson, and I'm really hoping for Huston, will pick up there own set of accolades. 

Kevorkian--after dodging time behind bars so often he could have matched every pair of socks he had to his court room appearances--eventually got a prison sentence in trial number five. Between 1999 and 2007, Kevorkian served eight years of a 10-to-25-year prison sentence for second degree murder. He was released on parole on June 1, 2007, due to good behavior. Which is where the film very abruptly stops. He has a life after the sentence and his release. Why shit on him like that? Show him adjusting to prison life. Or his speeches and scarce television appearances after he got out. He's more than some dude finally put away. I didn't agree at all with how Bary man chose to end this. But be that as it may, that film hitting the brick wall, I loved watching Pacino (and Huston) do his thing.

While not terribly exciting, the biopic brings to light some of the harsher realities that come with the territory of assisting in the suicide of others. And truth is, he sort of deserved what he got. If you dare the United States government to come after you, after going on national TV and showing off a video of you yourself pulling someone's plug, then hell... what did you expect? Doing the dirty deed yourself is another story. And the reason he got sent away.

And he didn't mind. Not one bit.
"I don't care what happens to me. And I'm not afraid because I'm right..."

He was and still is right. And you have to applaud this man for doing just that. Following his heart, and his morality, despite that fact the law says different. And now today, because of him, doctor assisted suicide isn't so taboo and is legal (albeit in a mere three states).

Bravo Dr. K.

3/4 'Nanas for you and your film.

Munki Out.

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