“The God Committee” is a medical drama, with a tinge of the medical thriller thrown in. Don’t let the title throw you off, as this is not a religious film. But it does ask the question can you put a price on a human life? And takes a look at how every decision has it’s consequences. Writer and director Austin Stark adapts veteran TV writer and playwright Mark St. Germain’s play “The God Dilemma” onto the screen. Premiering as an official selection at the Tribeca Film Festival, the film is now available to purchase or rent on all digital platforms.
In November 2014, a New York City hospital’s transplant committee is confronted with a crisis: With the intended recipient of a fresh heart perishing on the operating table, a new beneficiary must be selected in one hour or the organ will expire. That sets the ticking time tone for the films ensuing action, which centers on esteemed Dr. Andre Boxer (Grammer), a gruff heart surgeon who believes that “the heart is just a muscle” and that such decisions must therefore be made without emotion. His on-the-rocks girlfriend Dr. Jordan Taylor (Stiles), is new to the committee and takes a more wholistic view of the process.
Joining them in the committee is the no-nonsense head honcho Dr. Valerie Gilroy (Janeane Garofalo), Dr. Maryanne Wilkes (Patricia R. Floyd), conflicted Dr. Allen Lau (Peter Kim) and Father Dunbar (Colman Domingo). Dunbar is a disgraced former lawyer turned man of faith who’s been appointed to this position by the hospital’s governing board. The committee’s task is to choose from a trio of candidates: an overweight and bipolar father of three, a smart single woman with no family that has mixed feelings about a transplant.
Then there is Trip Granger (Maurizio Di Meo), the hard-partying son of wealthy financier Emmett Granger (Dan Hedaya), who complicates matters both by offering to donate $25 million to the hospital so his son gets the organ and by directly pressuring Dr. Boxer (Grammer), whose forthcoming private research is being promised by Granger to keep funding. In an irony overload Dr. Boxer needs a new heart and his best hope is the wealthy Emmett Granger, whom Boxer met seven years earlier.
It’s chilling to watch the committee play god and weigh out the pros and cons of each patient. These doctors have to beat the clock of the quickly expiring heart during their impassioned debate on who has the best chance for success, a good support system, lifestyle” (exercise, diet, drug-free) and who is worthy of a new heart. Told in a flashback timeline between 2014 and present day 2021. Pay attention to the tiniest details, as there are so few visual clues between the two timelines that it’s tricky to decipher which one you’re actually watching.
Stars Kelsey Grammer and Julia Stiles don’t make a natural romantic couple and their awkward pairing is the films most obvious misstep. While Grammer and Stiles chemistry never quite rings true, it’s Kelsey Grammer who gives a commanding presence on screen. Grammer, Stiles and Garofalo haven’t had this juicy of a role in a long time. “The God Committee” offers a lot for the actors to chew on giving these gifted actors a script they can really flex their acting muscles on.
The emotional, financial, spiritual and ethical factors that the committee contemplate, quickly become a part of the screenplays’s debates that largely play out around a boardroom table. This is where Austin Stark’s film often becomes a mixture of “Twelve Angry Men” and “Grey’s Anatomy”. Stark’s script avoids any sermonizing and instead maturely investigates the messy reality of medicine, morality and money.
Austin Stark’s film is a solid option for video on demand viewers. It’s revealing, moving and quietly gripping in keeping audiences invested and does an appropriate job of asking the question, “What would you do?”.
GRADE: ★★★1/2☆☆ (3.5 out of 5)