Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Movie Review: You Don't Know Jack (2010).

If someone were to come to you with an offer to make a movie about your life, and pitch that Al Pacino would play you and Barry Levinson would direct, would you think it was going to be a positive portrayal?

I would. So when I saw those film auteurs would be involved in the HBO film project about Dr. Jack Kevorkian, I predicted he would be essentially lionized in it.

I was right.

The film treats Dr. Kevorkian as a principled, yet eccentric fellow who is fighting for phyisician-assisted suicide, even at his peril. On top of medical and ethical issues, the film delves deeply into the legal conflicts Dr. Kevorkian found himself in, which the movie noted was no fewer than five prosecutions. In addition to trial scenes, the movie shows an appellate oral argument. As a result, lawyers will enjoy the movie much like watching the trial scenes in My Cousin Vinny.

Dr. Kevorkian did well in these legal skirmishes as long as he left the lawyering to lawyers (i.e. Geoffrey Fieger, who donated his time to the cause). On the last one, Dr. Kevorkian essentially represented himself and did eight years in prison for second degree murder. Surgeons wouldn't dream of performing surgery on themselves, and much more so, nondoctors shouldn't either. The strongest case the movie makes is one should not represent oneself in a murder prosecution. Good advice.

Strongly on Dr. Kevorkian's side, the movie unnecessarily lampoons as charicatures those who disagree (essentially on religious grounds). The film makes no pretense of presenting the other side reasonably, but resorts to reducing the opposition to sloganeering (from sneering, unsophisticated folks).

Despite the imbalance, the movie deserves credit for addressing an incendiary issue through the quirky life of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, and in doing so, in the context of legal procedure.

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