Matthew Modine


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Woodcock, John
Annotator

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This film rendition of Randy Shilts's documentary book by the same name tells the scientific, political, and human story of the first five years of AIDS in the U.S.--roughly 1980-85. Mainly it is a story of dedicated medical researchers groping to understand the horrifying and mysterious new disease and simultaneously battling the public fear and indifference that prevented, during those Reagan years, both public funding of their research and acceptance of their findings.

The central figure is Dr. Don Francis (Matthew Modine), veteran of the World Health Organization's smallpox eradication program, and the horrifying outbreak of hemorrhagic fever along the Ebola River in central Africa in 1976. Working at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta with no money and no space, Francis pursues his theory that AIDS is caused by a sexually-transmitted virus on the model of feline leukemia. His individual antagonist is Dr. Robert Gallo (Alan Alda), the discoverer of HTLV (the human T-cell leukemia virus), who cuts off assistance when he hears that Francis has shared some experimental materials with French researchers. (Gallo sees the French team mainly as his rivals for a Nobel prize.) Gallo finally claims a French retrovirus discovery as his own and thereby acquires a coveted patent.

Besides lab work and big scientific egos, the film shows us lots of grass-roots, shoe-leather epidemiology, especially in San Francisco; the laborious questioning of AIDS patients about their sexual histories, in search of the chain of infection and its beginning, "patient zero." The film's plot ends with Reagan's 1984 re-election and Francis's departure for San Francisco to set up as an independent researcher. Preceding the credits are a number of updates that take AIDS and the story's heroes and villains from 1985 to 1993, all this appearing over stills of famous AIDS victims and crusaders.

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Woodcock, John
Annotator

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Matthew Modine plays Joe Slovak, son of a West Coast fisherman, who goes to medical school and has a hard time adjusting. The film focuses on Joe and the members of his dissection group in Gross Anatomy. Joe, perhaps because of the proud independence of fishermen, goes through most of the film with a big chip on his shoulder, refusing to take things seriously, showing up late for dissection carrying a basketball, refusing to consider the feelings of hypothetical patients, etc., while everyone else is trying their hardest to become good doctors. He falls in love with dissection partner Laurie Rohrbach (Daphne Zuniga), but he has a hard time there, too.

When Joe's roommate David is kicked out, Joe goes home to think things over. He visits Dr. Rachel Woodruff (Christine Lahti), head of Anatomy who all along has been critical of his attitude but is now at home, incapacitated with lupus. She tells him of her disappointment in her own career ("I made doctors--people need healers.") and in him, because he has never wanted to be as good as she knew he could be. She pleads with him to commit to being a good doctor.

Switch to the group's all-nighter before finals and the sudden labor pains of the very pregnant member. They all rush off to the hospital, but don't make it, and Joe winds up delivering the baby on a table in a roadside diner (soft trumpet fanfare from the soundtrack). Between Dr. Woodruff, who dies at the end, and the delivery, Joe gets the message about commitment, and he winds up with both good grades and the girl.

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