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    In Praise of - Doc Hollywood

    A230 02"Doc Hollywood" is a romantic comedy based on the book What?...Dead Again? by Neil B. Shulman M.D.  It stars Michael J. Fox and Julie Warner with a cast of great character actors including David Ogden Stiers ("Mash") and Barnard Hughes with Woody Harrelson and Bridget Fonda. 

    Fox plays an egocentric young doctor heading to L.A. to join a plastic surgery practice.  He gets run off the road on the way, destroys the local judge's new fence and is sentenced to community service because the town needs a doctor.  The ploy is designed to make him fall in love with the town in the hopes that he'll stay and become their next town doctor. 

    It helps that the first morning he's there, he's greeted by the fetching Julie Warner rising out of a lake, nude, like some demi-goddess nymph.  That definitely sparks his interest in staying and creates a truly warm and funny romantic comedy as Fox fights his urge to be a big-city doctor and not follow his heart which is captured by both the town and Ms Warner.

    The movie is just about the most charming film I've seen.  But the charm wouldn't be anything without the sharp comedy and excellent characterizations and structure.

    And of course, Fox - who just nails the well-written part.

    In one brilliant scene sequence, an exasperated and affronted Fox rails against the Head Nurse (played by Eyde Byrde) because she's clocking him in and out as if he was a janitor not a head doctor.  A patient comes in and gives a pig in gratitude for his services. Funny already.  The man says that he "can't abide being in no man's debt" - the pig's all he's got to give.  Fox says he can't take it.  Man says with a catch in his throat, "It's a done deal now.  Pig's yours.  God bless you both." And then leaves as if saying goodbye to his beloved.

    doc hollywoordBefore Fox can recover, the grumpy head nurse tells him "Keep your animal outside. This is a hospital."

    Then DING! - she clocks him out which further aggravates him.

    Fox takes the pig outside and as he's walking down the street everyone (as if this was perfectly normal behavior walking your pig down main street) says "Nice pig, doc."  He responds with "Thank you"  "Appreciate it" etc. clearly beyond exasperation at this point and understanding there is no way to fight this lunacy.

    He trades the pig for a car part (since he needs a new oil pump on the classic Porche he wrecked) and the finds out that Lou (Warner) and her daughter love pigs.  So now he has to rush to save it from the butcher who trades him back the pig for his services cutting ribs.

    It's a perfectly integrated sequence with impeccable timing.  Better than that, it's several unique scenes I had never seen in any film - and still haven't for the most part. 

    Speaking of unique, there's  a scene sequence where the angry Warner character squats to pee in the woods to scare the deer so hunters won't track them.  Fox joins in.  Haven't seen that anywhere either.

    The film is rife with them.  Unique, amusing or charming scenes that feel perfectly organic to the situation.

    Everything is like that.  Cute and clever when needed,  romantic (sometimes painfully) at others in order to build the budding attraction between the Fox and Warner characters.  Comic relief abounds as the sometimes wacky townspeople act out what seems very natural and normal to them, especially during the annual Squash Festival where silly costumes and performances are around every corner.

    This type of fish-out-of-water story can be plodding and meaningless.  Not here.  DH has a ton of writers and normally that means trouble - but whatever dynamic that provided helped to make this a true treasure.  The direction was fantastic also (Michael Caton-Jones.)  You don't get a cast this relaxed in A230 02performance without a good on-set attitude and a sure hand at what you want to accomplish.

    Plus, the mark of a rich and fullfilling film is that every time you watch it you discover something more.  For example, I've seen the movie ten times and never noticed the obviously gay references in both a city council member (who comes to the Squash Festival with a male date) and a somewhat flamboyant couple who dance in the background while Fox and Warner are at the Squash Festival.  I mean, it's buried a bit but it's there and the film is richer for it going against the stereoype of a Southern town which is enlighted enough to not marginalize its minorities.

    The film has a real, honest third act - not some summary action that makes everything all right in one scene.  Fox leaves the town and goes to his new job.  But he yearns for Warner and the simple life that he lived while there.  It takes more than a minute to go through these paces and while today's audiences might be impatient with this type of filmmaking, I found it to be awesome because you ached for Fox's character.  By the time the resolution comes, you are more than ready and it is with such a feeling of relief and happiness even though you certainly know how this movie will end (boy gets girl.)

    Good stuff.  Real movie stuff, in my opinion. 

    I truly love this film.  I think it deserves a constant look to learn how to write anything but especially effective and wonderful romantice comedies.

    Yes, it's that good.

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