Sunday, April 25, 2010
Extraordinary Measures *
Director: Tom Vaughan
Cast: Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser, Keri Russell
Meredith Droeger, Diego Velazquez, Sam M. Hall, Jared Harris
Movies like Extraordinary Measures are perhaps doomed from the beginning. From the minute that it opens announcing it's based on real events, it's setting itself up into a trap; for not only will it have to live up to genre expectations but also must walk between the very delicate line of reverential biopic and schmaltz fest.
Because it deals with Pompe's disease (an incurable genetic disorder that affects muscles and nerves) we can expect it to veer a little more into the sentimental side.
The plot basically centers around John Crowley (Fraser), an assertive executive whose two youngest children Megan (Droeger) and John (Hall) suffer the rare ailment. When the children's life expectancy is about to reach its end, John and his wife Aileen (Russell) begin a foundation to raise money to find treatment.
They must recruit hermit scientist Robert Stonehill (Ford) who lives in Nebraska and feels more comfortable among test tubes and equations than with other human beings.
So begins an "odd couple" kind of thing where John's will power and love for his kids are put in contrast with Dr. Stonehill's idiosyncrasies.
For a simple effective movie, this would've sufficed. Seeing how the two men learn from each other and realize that they're not so different in the end has worked in similar movies.
This one however takes a different approach and instead contrasts the differences between John's business approach and Stonehill's scientific method.
Before long the movie turns into a dull battle between being fiscally responsible or sticking to academia.
This might be how the world works, where entrepreneurial qualities matter more than actual life saving, but who would want to hear about profits and enzymes in a fiction movie?
Even if this could've worked better as some sort of thesis, the director doesn't explore it this way and the movie ends up trying to satisfy its characters' whims.
Fraser and Ford never really turn their characters into actual human beings. Ford obviously makes the most of his caddish charm even if the character's eccentricity is too selfindulgent.
For the movie to work perhaps it would've needed to be made sixty years ago, films like Madame Curie combined science with melodrama effectively; for current audiences a film like that would feel dated or silly but probably would make more sense than this soulless work.
The movie does tap into a great energy with Droeger's performance, she could've taken a path of misery and overwrought drama but instead infects the movie with an adorable optimism.
Extraordinary Measures does try the dramatic aspect as well and when the inevitable "the medicine is working!" moment comes, the big inspirational score and crane shot kick in almost by inertia.
Too bad that they recur to classic Hollywood when the film is already beyond salvation.