Thursday, June 9, 2011
The passing this past week of Dr. Jack Kevorkian spurred me to seek out the 2010 HBO movie You Don't Know Jack. This biopic proves aptly titled, showing what a complex figure the infamous physician really was (more than a cheap punchline or--his hoary, skeletal appearance notwithstanding--some modern-day icon of grim reaping). Al Pacino gives a quiet yet commanding performance, one devoid of his trademark bombast (the courtroom scenes here hardly hearken back to the climax of ...And Justice For All). He portrays Kevorkian as a man of noble intentions but often oft-putting demeanor; one poignant line from the film perhaps sums it up best: "The right message, but the wrong messenger." By film's end one gets the sense that Kevorkian was less a villain than a tragic hero, a man who ultimately orchestrated his own downfall via his audacious defiance of the U.S. legal system.
Directed by Barry Levinson and co-starring Susan Sarandon, John Goodman, and Danny Huston, You Don't Know Jack handles its eccentric title character and emotionally-charged subject matter with the utmost care. No sensationalist drama, the film delves soberly and tactfully into the euthanasia debate. And no matter where you might stand on the issue of assisted suicide--whether
you consider Kevorkian a civil rights crusader or a glorified serial killer--you will find this movie compelling viewing. Highly recommended.