Monday, June 21, 2021

Tribeca with Abe: The God Committee

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

The God Committee
Directed by Austin Stark
2020 Official Selection – Screening Information

Organ donation is a process that, in many cases, takes one loss of life that has already happened and turns it into an opportunity to prolong another life. It can be a rewarding and truly transformative act, and so many people benefit from the receipt of a desperately-needed component. But there are also limitations and complications that make the use of a particular organ for one intended recipient more complicated, including the geographical possibility of utilizing it in time and the physical condition of the new host. Another important factor, depending on available information, may be whether the recipient’s historical behavior makes them likely to misuse that which they have been given and ultimately lead to its rejection.

Dr. Andre Boxer (Kelsey Grammer) is a respected doctor at a New York City hospital who also serves on its heart transplant committee, which is run by Dr. Valerie Gilroy (Janeane Garofalo). On the first day that she is selected to join the committee, Dr. Jordan Taylor (Julia Stiles) faces a complex case, where a powerful and influential man (Dan Hedaya) has offered a large donation to the hospital, alleging that it is not contingent on his son being selected for an available heart following an accident. Father Dunbar (Colman Domingo) sits with the committee as a supposedly neutral representative of the would-be donor as they deliberate over what the right choice is.

This film is based on the play of the same name by Mark St. Germain. Its theatrical roots speak to the inherently dramatic nature of people sitting in a room and discussing the value of someone’s life as it compares to another and based on factors that they can’t know are entirely true. As a film, it’s not as clearly compelling, especially because it jumps back and forth frequently between moments in time, including several years in the future after whatever consequential decision comes at the end of the film has already been made. It’s a device that doesn’t aid the storytelling but instead distracts from it, diluting the urgency and distracting audiences by pushing them to guess what may have happened rather than remain intently focused on it.

While both Grammer and Stiles are skilled actors who have, in the past, delivered strong performances as characters with questionable morals, neither of them are memorable in these parts. There isn’t enough character development to make them as interesting as that which they are discussing, and the addition of charismatic scene-stealers like Garofalo and Domingo doesn’t help much since they’re just as unexplored. This is a case where a television series with the opportunity to actually flesh out its protagonists and invest in them as much as in the drama they face might have been a better fit, since the premise is intriguing but not satisfyingly investigated here.


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