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CRITICAL CARE

SYNOPSIS:
Dr. Butz (Albert Brooks), is a natty, Scotch-swilling chief resident at a major metropolitan hospital. Suffering from chronic short-term memory loss because of his drinking, Butz doesn't recall summoning Dr. Werner Ernst (James Spader), a talented second-year resident, into his office, but once the young physician has plopped himself down, Butz turns him into a captive audience for his creepy Darwinian screeds. Even when Werner is desperately needed in the hospital's intensive care unit, Butz won't let him go until he has made sure the patient in need of care is fully insured. But Werner's rampant libido lands him in hot water. He allows himself to be seduced by Felicia (Kyra Sedgwick), the witchy daughter of a dying man in his unit who is kept alive by a respirator at a cost of $112,000 a month. And Werner has a life-changing encounter with an ashen-faced, fiery-eyed nun (Anne Bancroft), who speaks quite eloquently about the meaning of eternity…

"Not content simply to satirize the American health care system, Critical Care recklessly stumbles from social criticism into the spiritual realm by having comical agents from heaven and hell appear at the bedsides of the dying. Like Network, Critical Care is an extremely talky movie that goes all over the place. But it takes a giddy pride in its verbosity. The screenplay includes at last a half-dozen big, information-packed, opinionated speeches that go far enough over the top to be amusing. Lumet, who stumbled badly with his last film, the miscast, overacted Night Falls on Manhattan, has regained his footing with Critical Care. Except for Kyra Sedgwick's excessively batty Felicia, the performances are juicy and intelligent. Edward Herrmann is especially impressive as a shifty hospital lawyer whose moral universe is a litigious quagmire. His masterly performance conveys several shades of suspicion, snobbery and cynicism all at once. Helen Mirren is also wonderfully grounded as the intensive care unit's sensible head nurse, who has seen it all but somehow hasn't lost her humanity. Critical Care should probably be avoided by anyone who is about to go to a hospital or who has recently been discharged from one."
Stephen Holden, New York Times (edited extract)

"An a movie be gentle and scathing at the same time? Can it celebrate life while cracking jokes about death? Critical Care is a dark comedy about a hospital crippled by greed, where a callous war is waged over a dying man's $10 million fortune by his two selfish daughters. But its tone is often quiet and empathetic, and Sidney Lumet refuses to bang home the ironies or ostentatiously rake over the muck. His approach is as tender and concerned as if he were a doctor himself. And though this bedside manner may seem to rob the story of sensationalism or spice, it yields dividends. Lumet, making his 41st film, handles Chicagoan Steven S. Schwartz's script like an old master, skillfully bringing out the humanity where another director would be content to carve it up and slice it open. At his best, Lumet gives the movie a pulse."
Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune (edited extract)

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0
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SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

CRITICAL CARE
(US)

CAST: James Spader, Kyra Sedgwick, Helen Mirren, Margo Martindale, Philip Bosco, Jeffrey Wright, Wallace Shawn, Anne Bancroft, Edward Herrmann and Albert Brooks as Dr. Butz.

DIRECTOR: Sidney Lumet

PRODUCERS: Lumet and Schwartz

SCRIPT: Steven Schwartz, (from the novel by Richard Dooling)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Watki

EDITOR: Tom Swartwout

MUSIC: Michael Convertino

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Philip Rosenberg

RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 17, 1999 (Sydney & Melbourne only)







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