REVIEW: “THE GOD COMMITTEE”(2021)

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Finally wrapping up my Tribeca Film Festival coverage with what was the highlight film of the festival for me – “THE GOD COMMITTEE”. The film delves deep with a look into a very different type of ‘committee’, one that makes the tough decisions on life and death every day. It also has a compelling backstory within it of not only the people’s whose lives these very transplants can change, but the people making the decisions as well aka ‘The God Committee’.

As the film opens, a transplant patient dies just before their surgery is to begin, making a heart available, but with only an hour or so of viability to decide ‘The God Committee’, pits a group of doctors, nurses, specialists and yes, even a clergyman, against each other as they must decide who gets the heart from a pool of candidates. The Committee – which consists of: Father Dunbar (Colman Domingo), the lawyer turned clergyman; Dr. Allan Lau (Peter Y. Kim), the reticent one of the bunch who tries recusing himself from the decision; Nurse Wilkes (Patricia R. Floyd), probably the least biased one of the bunch; the aging, though hard-living chief surgeon Dr. Andre Boxer (Kelsey Grammar); the idealistic young doctor-with-a-secret Dr. Jordan Taylor (Julia Stiles), and lastly, the just lets-just-get-it-over-with bureaucratic hospital administrator, Dr. Valerie Gilroy (Janeane Garofalo). The crux of the story is the panel’s struggle on the decision making position process, taking us down a mean dive into the grimy and sometimes slimy world of unconditional ethics, along with the tension of the weighing of the needs of many, versus the needs of one. The debate here stems over whether to give a heart transplant to Trip (Maurizio Di Meo), a drug addict with a long history of recurring rehabs who coerced his girlfriend to terminate her pregnancy, or to Walter (Kyle Moore), a somewhat overweight doorman with a family to support or lastly, Janet Pike (Georgia Buchanan), an ornery, elderly woman who doesn’t like the idea of a transplant. The apparent no-brainer is complicated by the fact that Trip’s wealthy father Granger (Dan Hedaya), is dangling a $25 million donation for the hospital in front of the board if Trip is chosen. Well that and he also happens to be a potential investor in the heart surgeon’s Dr. Boxer’s private research.

As the committee members struggle with their literal life-or-death decision, previously unknown information regarding all the patients considered for the procedure and the committee members themselves, comes to light in ways that affect everyone involved in various ways. As the debate over the heart heats up, so does the tension of the room, the digs escalate and the ethics vs. the bribes clash almost to the point of no return. It leaves not just the committee members, but the audience as well, to question what’s more valuable when it comes to people’s lives – the morals of it or the money that can help it?

Writer-director Austin Stark applies a remarkable touch to his adaptation here, while crosscutting between two timelines that the film goes between. November 2014, the time of the actual committee meeting and decision making, and December 2021, when we find out what the research actually entailed. Along with a big twist, the future timeline exists seemingly to supply us with the ‘what if’s’, as it holds us in the back and forth that can twist the decision making. What was once thought of as a list that was first-come, first-serve, is truly anything but. And we the audience feel that along with the film mostly because of the stellar acting of the cast, most notably, Grammar and Stiles, who knock this one out of the park. Also a nice turn seeing Dan Hedaya back and Garofalo really steps up her game her doing the dramatic as well as she does comedic. While we see the outcome of the decision, the only downside to this film is it never tells us whether any of the characters from 2014 were able in 2021 to live with the decisions they all made seven years earlier.

And unlike the decisions made by ‘The God Committee’, the decision to watch this one is simple. Watch it.

Grade: A-

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Virtual screening courtesy of ~ Betsy Rudnick PR

“THE GOD COMMITTEE” IS IN SELECT THEATERS AND ON DEMAND AS OF FRIDAY, JULY 2, 2021


“SELMA” (2014) Q & A w/Ava DuVernay,Common, Carmen Ejojo

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Yes, I should have done this review ages ago as it’s been a month since I attended an Oscar screening of this film along with an after-screening Q & A with Director: Ava DuVernay; Cast members Common, Carmen Ejojo, and Henry G. Sanders. Not even sure why I waited so long, but I will say I’ve thought some about it since then. Maybe it’s because the movie, while I’m not even going to pretend it isn’t a strong, powerful film, just missed a few things for me. And historical inaccuracies aside, as let’s be real, many prestigious movies take dramatic license with historical events and pretty much all bio-pics have them, I think I’ve just been trying to put my finger on what it was. Could be the slower pace of it or the fact that, some needlessly added small odd scenes, at times I thought I was watching a MLK biopic instead of a Selma one, or for me the too strong religious aspect of it. Yes I am fully aware and know MLK was REVEREND Martin Luther King..I am aware of the fact he was a religious man, but since they are taking liberties with some things, including re-writing the “I Have a Dream” speech, this would have been what I would have chosen to tone down some as some of it comes off unnecessary in parts. But whatever it was, I think a lot of it has to do with everything going on from Ferguson to New York to Paris, maybe I’ve been trying to come to terms with man’s atrocities against each other in every way and this film started that for me as it couldn’t have come at a more relevant time. Selma 1

As the opening of the film opens with a heart-wrenching explosion we move along quickly to the man “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” (David Oyelowo), pulling off a performance that seems true to the man without being a caricature or overly reverent. The film acknowledges that King was a man, with faults like any other, but in a way that makes him affecting. Oyelowo doesn’t look especially like King, but he does capture a good rendition of the heart & soul of the man. However, he’s only a piece of the puzzle, with this being a true ensemble film with at least a dozen good roles, from Carmen Ejogo as King’s wife Coretta, to pros like Wendell Pierce as “Rev. Hosea Williams”, musician/actor Common “James Bevel” and Martin Sheen “Frank Minis Johnson” as some of the allies King encountered along the way.
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The film does a great job portraying just how much the people in the march, from all walks of life, were risking their lives by participating, against a southern resistance ranging from ignorant yokels to devious politicians, to definitely more than a few sadists, who were so keen to inflict harm to the peaceful marchers that at times it’s painful to watch. There are scenes of people riding horses and brandishing whips, covering wood clubs with spoke-like wire to inflict as much damage as possible on the marchers. While some might think it’s puzzling as to where this hate comes from, but even more so in that the film tries to keep an even hand in showing both sides. Tim Roth as “Gov. George Wallace” could have easily played him as demonic, but he tries and somewhat succeeds to humanize him as much as he can, which is not easy when you’re playing one of history’s truly great evil bastards. Tom Wilkinson is very effective as “Lyndon Johnson“, who’s not above playing the good ol’boy card with Wallace, but also sympathizes with King, even if he’s reluctant to stir up trouble and makes a few horrible decisions along the way.
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In a cast of ‘names’ many of which I have been a fan of for a long long time, yes I’m looking at you Lorraine Toussaint “Amelia Boynton”, Tom Wilkinson, Giovanni Ribisi “Lee White”, Wendall Pierce, Tim Roth and yes, even Oprah Winfry as I wasn’t an ‘talkshow’ Oprah fan, but I am an ‘actress’ Oprah fan. My three standouts of this film that made me sit up and take notice are Stephen James as “John Lewis”, Trai Byers as “James Forman”, and lastly Alessandro Nivola as “John Doar”.

Hopefully the best thing about “Selma” that we can take away from it is that it’s not a movie about blame or hate. Rather, it’s hopeful in that it shows how people can come together and change things for the better in a non-violent manner ~ a message that should always be kept in mind when things get out of hand as they often do. Even with it’s faults,“Selma” is a strong film that sends a clear message to a new generation about what standing up against intimidation in any form is all about. It is a passionate work about a towering figure who left an enduring legacy, but one that, as recent events might indicate, is still short of completion. selma common 1

Additional note: I love Q & A’s after films with directors/producers/cast etc. They really give you insight sometimes into things about how the film got made or a fun antidote or two.. This Oscar screening was on Thursday, December 18th,2014 at The Landmark Theater with Dir. Ava DuVernay giving insight into that this project was really made because of David Oyelowo who took it and ran with it (which explains the large Brit casting also! 🙂 ) getting Oprah & her team including Brad Pitt & others involved, including picking her as the director, even though she didn’t have much experience and convincing everyone to get onboard. Also, reasoning behind not using the actual “I Have a Dream” speech..the rights to it are held by someone else who has never used them and they could not get them for this film so she ended up re-writing it herself. As for something I completely did not know, at the end of the film we see a shot of a bridge ~ it’s the “Edmund Pettus Bridge” ~ as DuVernay noted was named after the leader of the Klan back then..it’s name remains today.
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Grade: B-