Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Apr 24th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Dad Reckoning

film_measuresFather fights system to cure sick kids in 'Extraordinary Measures'
Parental love is a powerful thing. It drove John Crowley, a corporate idea man at Bristol Myers in Portland, Oregon, to found and operate an independent research center in hopes of developing a treatment in time to save the lives of his two youngest children, stricken with a rare genetic disease. Crowley's extraordinary parental love is also the motivating force behind Extraordinary Measures, the earnest, workmanlike film dramatization of Crowley's story.

As the first theatrical release from the new CBS Films, Extraordinary Measures may perhaps be forgiven for looking a bit like a TV movie, maybe something on the Lifetime Channel. Adapted by scriptwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs from the non-fiction book, "The Cure," by Geeta Anand, and directed by Tom Vaughan, it combines scenes of domestic bliss (increasingly strained as the kids' disease progresses), and a blandly heart-tugging musical score, with often clumsy confrontations calculated to provide drama as Crowley (nicely played by Brendan Fraser) tilts, Quixote-like against the corporate drug industry. Still, as predictable as the storytelling often is, the film deftly portrays the shortcomings of the for-profit corporate mentality in issues of human health.

The story begins on the eighth birthday of Megan Crowley (Meredith Droeger), a bright, spirited girl who, like her younger brother, Patrick, is confined to a wheelchair with a breathing tube. But that doesn't stop her racketing around the house in her chair with her mobile older brother. Megan and Patrick are afflicted with Pompe disease, an incurable genetic malfunction somewhat similar to muscular dystrophy in which the muscles atrophy while organs like the heart and lungs enlarge, to the point that breathing and other functions become impaired. The bad news for their loving parents, John (Fraser) and Aileen Crowley (Keri Russell), is that Pompe kids rarely live past age nine.

In John's desperate after-hours research into the disease, one name keeps popping up: Dr. Robert Stonehill, biochemist at an under-funded university lab in Nebraska, who's working toward isolating an enzyme that could reverse the progress of Pompe. Unable to reach him by phone, John flies to Nebraska to meet Stonehill (Harrison Ford), and finds a cantankerous eccentric whose research might be the miracle the Crowleys need, but whose abrasive disposition could scuttle John's hopes for assembling a scientific dream team.

Ford also co-executive produced, no doubt with an eye toward moving out of action heroics and into juicy character roles. Stonehill is envisioned as the story's loose-cannon trump card; he listens to the Grateful Dead and The Band cranked up to 11 in his lab, goes fishing when there's work to be done, and drives a pick-up to show what a rebel he is. It's meant to be admirable that Stonehill has so little truck with the medical/pharmaceutical establishment, and Ford plays the part with a certain gusto, but he never quite navigates the fine line between irascible and obnoxious. Not that the script gives him much to work with, with Stonehill routinely blowing up whenever the drama needs a big scene.

Still, it's interesting to watch the determination with which Crowley pursues his goal. He gambles on leaving his job and losing his health insurance (his kids' rack up medical bills of $40,000 a month), and uses his knowledge of corporate financing to secure funding for an independent research foundation in which Stonehill can study his enzyme full-time. The film's most affecting moments come from John trying to portray himself as an "objective and rational" head of a scientific foundation in endless board meetings with money men, while his kids' conditions decline back home.

Fraser, Russell, and young Droeger imbue their family dynamics with plenty of heart. And while much of the action occurs in boardrooms, the desperate skill with which John learns to play the game—from selling his foundation to a pharmaceutical giant to secure critical funding, to doing an end run around standard procedures to get his kids placed in the testing program—keeps the story moving along. And every now and then, a cold-hearted discussion of relative death rates in terms of "acceptable loss" will chill the blood of anyone who fears the corporate mentality that operates within the American health care system.

EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES ★★1/2 (out of four)

With Brendan Fraser, Harrison Ford, and Keri Russell. Written by Robert Nelson Jacobs. From the book "The Cure" by Geeta Anand. Directed by Tom Vaughan. A CBS Films release. Rated PG. 105 minutes.

 

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Best of Santa Cruz County 2014

The 2014 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll Come on in, and have a look around. There’s a lot to see—hundreds of winners selected by thousands of GT readers across Santa Cruz County. So if some of this looks familiar, it’s probably because you helped make it happen. But there are always new things to discover, too—you could go to a different winner or runner-up every day in the Food and Drink category alone, and you’d be booked just about until next year’s Best of Santa Cruz County issue comes out.

 

Something Essential Disappears

Lunar and solar eclipses follow one another. Lunar eclipses occur at full moons, and solar eclipses at new moons. Two weeks ago at the full moon we had the blood red moon—a total lunar eclipse (the next one is Oct. 8). On Monday night, April 28 (new moon), as the Sun, Moon and Earth align, a solar eclipse (Sun obscured) occurs. Eclipses signify something irrevocably is changed in our world. The Sun is our essential life force. Monday’s new moon, 9 degrees Taurus, is also an annular solar eclipse when the Moon moves centrally in front of the Sun, yet does not cover the Sun completely. The Sun's outer edges, still visible, form a “ring of fire” around the Moon.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

Latest Comments

 

Palate-Stretching 101

A wine education with Soif’s experts As a veteran of many weekend wine “seminars” at Soif, I have to confess that I’ve never known less (going in) and learned more (coming out) than I did last week at the Spanish Wine Tasting with ace rep Brian Greenwood. These are classy, casual events and it’s hard to imagine having this much flavor fun anywhere for $20.

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Sauvignon Blanc 2011 One of my favorite wines is Sauvignon Blanc, and this one made by Martin Ranch is particularly lovely. Bright, crisp and refreshing, it’s perfect to pair with fish and shellfish—and good for picnics as it has an easy screw-cap bottle. There’s nothing worse than setting down your blanket, pulling out your sandwiches—and then realizing you don’t have a corkscrew.

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management