You Don’t Know Jack premiered on HBO Saturday night, starring Al Pacino as Dr. Kevorkian. The approximately 135-minute film was directed by Barry Levinson. You Don’t Know Jack is also supported by great acting performances by John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, and Brenda Vaccaro. No matter what one’s beliefs about doctor-assisted suicide are, this is a film that will make viewers ponder.
Synopsis of You Don’t Know Jack, Which Premiered on HBO, A Movie about Dr. Kevorkian Starring Al Pacino
The film opens with Dr. Jack Kevorkian peering into a hospital room and seeing a woman suffering, which triggers memories of his own mother who suffered to her death. The film follows the time the pathologist begins to perform doctor-assisted suicides until his incarceration in 1999. His loving sister Margo (Brenda Vaccaro) supports his cause, and is a sounding board but also a verbal-sparring partner until she dies of a heart attack. The Al Pacino character also enlists the aid of Janet Good (Susan Sarandon), who he met at a Hemlock Society meeting. She was to give him a place (Good’s home) to conduct his first doctor-assisted suicide, but she backs out at the last minute, so Kevorkian has to use his VW van. .
But eventually in You Don’t Know Jack, Good becomes one of his best friends, and she, too, gets help in her suicide from Dr. Kevorkian after she gets pancreatic cancer. John Goodman plays Neal Nicol, who is his long-suffering friend and helper, until Kevorkian administers a lethal injection to Thomas Youk in 1998, who was suffering badly from Lou Gehrig’s Disease. This act, which Dr. Jack Kevorkian confessed to on 60 Minutes, gets Kevorkian convicted of 2nd degree murder and delivery of a controlled substance, but not of assisted suicide (which he wasn’t charged with).
The HBO premiere of You Don’t Know Jack Showed Troubling Scenes of Doctor-Assisted Suicide by Dr. Kevorkian
The scenes of the assisted suicides shown in You Don’t Know Jack aren’t easy to watch, especially that of a decorated war veteran Hugh Gale, who had to go through two attempts because the first one was too agonizing for him, but the film still showed that he consented to the act. The movie captured both the pain and relief of the loved ones as the doctor-assisted suicides were administered. There were even some scenes of suffering people who were turned down by Dr. Jack Kevorkian.
Jack Kevorkian’s lawyer, Geoffrey Feiger, played by Danny Huston, is shown in the HBO movie You Don’t Know Jack to be quite grandstanding, yet very knowledgeable of legal procedure. Though he seems to have ulterior motives for helping the Right to Die activist, like using his pro bono work for Kevorkian for eventual political aspirations. After he announced that he was running for governor, he changed his tune of not supporting doctor-assisted suicide for political expediency, though he loses the election.
Al Pacino Offers Insights into Dr. Kevorkian in the HBO film You Don’t Know Jack
Al Pacino gives insight into Dr. Jack Kevorkian as a man who is very stubborn in defending his beliefs over the 2 hour-plus movie, reflecting a “stubborn-to-the-core” aspect that media soundbytes never captured entirely. Kevorkian was shown on screen as a man who didn’t fear jail time because, “I’m not afraid because I’m right.” You Don’t Know Jack shows how a man who served 8.5 years in prison was really affected by his own mother’s suffering, something that must’ve laid root to him becoming a Right to Die activist and one who’d assist in suicides of scores of people. The cinematography of You Don’t Know Jack by Eigel Bryld is shot in a darkish tone, reflecting just how difficult these issues of doctor-assisted suicide and death itself are.
Dr. Jack Kevorkian is shown in You Don’t Know Jack as one who lives cheaply and simply, but loves culture and appreciates life, even telling some religious fanatics who think that “Life is God’s Choice” that Bach is his “god”, as they harass him and his sister Margo. Dr. Kevorkian feels that religion interferes with a person’s right to choose to die with dignity, and his anti-religion sentiments are captured well in the film. He even paints grotesque paintings that reflect the human condition, the darker side of it, that is.
Dr. Jack Kevorkian said on Real Time with Bill Maher Friday night that Pacino’s performance was “superb.” You can read more about his interview at this Associated Content article here.
The HBO film You Don’t Know Jack Raises Tough Questions for People to Ponder
The issues raised in You Don’t Know Jack bring up a lot of emotions and stir debate, but after watching this film, the following questions certainly come to surface and need to be pondered: Do people really have the right to end their suffering when they see fit? Why do religious fundamentalists feel they have a right to force their views of life and death on others? In the 21st century, should laws be changed en masse which reflect religious fundamentalism’s values of taking people’s choices over their own lives away? Dr. Jack Kevorkian is the igniting point of this heated debate for sure.
You Don’t Know Jack, April 24, 2010, HBO
Jack Kevorkian: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Kevorkian, Wikipedia