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Change of Heart

The-god-committee-movie-review-kelsey-grammer
Tribeca Film Festival

MOVIE REVIEW
The God Committee (2021)

Based on a Mark St. Germain play, “The God Committee” centers on a panel at the fictional St. Augustine Hospital in New York City that periodically makes the call on who receives an organ transplant from a waiting list of candidates. Each member of the panel is a caricature placed there to deliberate toward a “12 Angry Men”-type verdict: a star surgeon with a conflict of interest (Kelsey Grammer), an idealistic young doctor (Julia Stiles), a bureaucratic administrator (Janeane Garofalo), a no-nonsense old-timer (Patricia R. Floyd), a grief-stricken psychiatrist (Peter Kim) and a utilitarian disbarred lawyer/hospital board member/priest (Colman Domingo).

The crux of the story is the panel’s struggle over whether to give a heart transplant to Trip (Maurizio Di Meo), the drug addict who violently coerces his girlfriend to terminate her pregnancy, or to Walter (Kyle Moore), an obese doorman with a family to support. The ostensible no-brainer is complicated by the fact that Trip’s wealthy father (Dan Hedaya) dangles a $25 million donation in front of the board if Trip is chosen and that he also happens to be a potential investor in the heart surgeon’s private research.

Writer-director Austin Stark applies movie magic to his adaptation mostly through the crosscutting between two timelines: November 2014, the time of the actual decision, and December 2021. The future timeline exists seemingly to supply a trail of red herrings that certainly help hold interest. Still, all of the characters seem to be drawn with bullet points. Instead of having panelists wrestling with the pros and cons of each choice, the plot quickly devolves into whether those who play god are susceptible to bribery. But the most glaring omission is that the film never tells us at any point whether any of the characters are able in 2021 to live with the consequences of the decision made seven years earlier.

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