Movie One Hundred Forty Nine
You Don’t Know Jack is a biopic about Jack Kevorkian’s fight for doctor assisted suicide and the struggles for its acceptance.
Jack Kevorkian (Al Pacino) is a pathologist in Michigan who, along with the help of his sister, Margo Janus (Brenda Vaccaro), and colleague, Neal Nicol (John Goodman), decide to offer terminal patients the right to suicide. Kevorkian encounters numerous detractors along the way and finds himself in legal hot water consistently. Kevorkian does have other people in his corner, notably the Hemlock Society president, Janet Good (Susan Sarandon), and lawyer, Geoffry Feiger (Danny Huston). As Kevorkian struggles with what he sees as basic human rights, he struggles his unique personal and professional issues.
Right off the bat I have to commend Al Pacino on what I can only describe as possibly my favorite performance after Dog Day Afternoon and The Godfather series. He is nigh unrecognizable in this role and nails all of Kevorkian’s mannerisms and personality traits amazingly well. It’s almost a shame Pacino’s performance is so incredible because it outshines the rest of the cast, who is also spectacular.
You Don’t Know Jack is partially shot to look like home video since Kevorkian would always record the conversations he had with his patients about their illnesses as well as their reasons for not wanting to go on. These scenes are remarkably powerful in their realism that at times it is eerie. The film itself sticks to telling the story of Kevorkian during the years when he was in the media spotlight, mostly due to his numerous court battles. There are some hints to his past profession and personal life, but they are not the focus here.
The film sets up the debate of “is this right?” perfectly and doesn’t always take sides. There are times that it seems Kevorkian is leading this crusade for all the wrong reasons and other times when he is completely humanized. He really was an interesting man, regardless of if you believe he was doing the right thing or not. You Don’t Know Jack is also an interesting case when it comes to awards because it was made for HBO, it was not eligible for the Academy Awards, which is an absolute shame.
In spite of its sometimes morbid subject matter, I would highly recommend You Don’t Know Jack for Pacino alone. The debate of physician assisted euthanasia can come later, but for a film to tackle the subject with this much care, it’s something special.
I give it 4 Jack Kevorkian paintings out of 5.