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Straight-talking angel

movie-reviews Updated: Jun 30, 2012 13:17 IST

Hindustan Times
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You don’t know Jack

HBO/Reliance Home Video, Rs 499

Rating: ****

If someone can relieve you or a loved one of agonising physical pain by facilitating a dignified death, is he a hero or a villain? Common sense would tell us that Jack Kevorkian aka ‘Dr Death’, who championed a patient’s right to die via a physician-assisted suicide, did immense service to the 130-odd suffering patients he helped to die. But the law — and social conditioning — continues to think otherwise. This is the tantalising subject of Barry Levinson’s television feature film, You Don’t Know Jack.

Al Pacino plays the compelling role of the extraordinary Kevorkian who served eight years in prison for second-degree murder for his ‘crimes’ and passed away last year. Based on the book, Between the Dying and the Dead, Levinson portrays the protagonist as a driven man whose compassion and belief in what he was doing are matched by his stubbornness and his supreme ego. Pacino’s performance as an old, crotchety bachelor with a tremendous passion is rousing. Danny Huston plays Kevorkian’s lawyer Geoffrey Fieger with similar aplomb, as does Brenda Vaccaro as Kevorkian’s tireless sister-collaborator Margos Janus. Susan Sarandon is the quieter Janet Good, whom while championing the euthanasia cause, ensures that Kevorkian doesn’t manage to alienate himself from the rest of the world.

The film makes a direct appeal to our sense of injustice and succeeds with gusto. But the highlight of the DVD has to be the special feature where we see the real Jack Kevorkian telling the viewer: “It’s part of nature. You’re all gonna die. What’s wrong with it? You just go into nothingness. Big deal! You came from nothingness. Was it so bad?” That statement and the film as a whole are strangely so life-affirming.