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.
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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