DRAMA; 1hr 39min
STARRING: Kelsey Grammer, Julia Stiles, Janeane Garofalo
Tick-tock: Stiles and Grammer
Playing God, in life as in the arts that reflect it, is rarely a slam dunk, especially in a fight to the death. When a heart becomes available at a New York City hospital, the question of who gets the donor goods is hot with urgency for the six members of its transplant committee — they have an hour to decide — and rife with ethical pitfalls. Surgeon Andre Boxer (Grammer), without doubt the chilliest fish in any think tank, is all pragmatism and no compassion. Liberal newcomer Dr Jordan Taylor (Stiles) is his caring opposite and secret lover (go figure, which she has tried and failed to do). Committee chair Dr Valerie Gilroy (Garofalo) is so world-weary she practically creaks. And they’re just the first three. Would you want your fate in their batting hands? No, you would not, and Jordan wouldn’t blame you. “Ideally no one should have the right to decide who gets priority,” she protests. But like the paradox of law and justice, rights in this tug of war come down to personal pull. With one candidate young and financially entitled and the other older and not, the choice between them narrows to a financial knife-edge.
By cutting between the 11th-hour politics of 2014 and the people Boxer and Jordan have become in 2021, film-maker Austin Stark’s fiery screenplay — based on the 2006 play by Mark St. Germain — turns a searchlight on choice and repercussion. In 2021, a haggard Boxer is hustling for donations in the private sector of animal-to-human organ transplants while in desperate need of a transplant himself, oh the irony, while Jordan, now running the hospital’s cardiovascular show, has her own decisions to reckon with.
Between those touchy developments and the spinning of tactical wheels as the 2014 hour of organ expiration draws near, the performances bristle and flare across the two timelines. But the heart of both matters rests firmly with a nuanced Stiles. Her illusions eroded, holding tight to what remains, Jordan’s own heart continues to beat, regardless of the cost.