John Q (2002)
Reviewed on 2007 February 4
Denzel Washington is a great Everyman, and this movie shows what can happen if an average man is pushed too far. I’m not going to talk about the ethics of what John did or the irony of this issue being tackled by Hollywood and some of the richest people on God’s earth; I’m going to just deal with the movie.
Washington plays John Q. Archibald, a struggling man trying and failing to make ends meet through a series of low-paying jobs. His skills and willingness to work don’t seem to help, despite one interviewer noting his impressive resume. He doesn’t have much, except for his wife Denise (Kimberly Elise) and their adorable son Mike (Daniel E. Smith). Even this is threatened when their little boy’s heart fails. Cardiologist Raymond Turner (James Woods) explains Mike is going to need a transplant. Unfortunately, Rebecca Payne (Anne Heche), the hospital’s financial gnome, explains that their insurance won’t cover the procedure. Rebecca could pee ice water as she explains that without a down payment the size of some starter homes, Mike’s name can’t even go on a waiting list. “People get sick and die”, she helpfully reminds the hysterical parents. Archibald can’t even pay for his car, let alone a new heart. He tries raising money and concern for his family, but when nobody else seems to care, he decides he’s going to make them.
I have to admit — the first time I saw this movie I wasn’t in a receptive frame of mind. It didn’t appeal to me then and it’s not without it’s flaws. I hate fighting with my insurance company as much as anyone, but this movie beats the issue over your head with a thick stick. We get it; our healthcare system is a crap-shoot and rich people can buy quality healthcare as easily as they do gold and single-malt scotch. I think later in the film Heche’s character does some unbelievable things for a reptile like Rebecca, and this is more a script issue than her acting. It’s an overwrought film but the acting and casting are good. Elise and Smith even have the same beautiful eyes and cheekbones, and I think the reason we can imagine Denzel getting away with with what he does in this movie is because he’s Denzel.
Two chocolate morsels.