Synopsis: The true story of one woman’s struggle against a narrow-minded medical establishment.
Stars: Meryl Streep, Fred Ward, Seth Adkins, Allison Janney, Margo Martindale
Director: Jim Abrahams
Running Length: 95 minutes
TMMM Score: (5/10)
Review: It was big news when Streep took leave from her cinematic playground and ventured into the boob tube with this maudlin made for television film. Not that Streep and a solid cast don’t give it the good ‘ole college try as they work with a cookie-cutter script intent on doing them no real favors.
In the grand tradition of countless parents vs. modern medicine films like Lorenzo’s Oil, …first do no harm casts Streep as a plucky mom from the heartland that takes on the doctors and hospitals that don’t have answers to why her young epileptic son (Adkins) continues his violent seizures. Refusing to sit back and condemn her son to a lifetime of hospital stays and prescription drugs, she goes against the advice of physicians (namely Janney’s chilly doctor written like a villain from a Batman movie) and seeks alternative treatment in this true life tale.
Ward provides nice support as Streep’s nicely supportive husband while Martindale is her usual warm presence as a family friend. The late actors Oni Fada Lampley and Leo Burmester (The Abyss) also make strong impressions in their peripheral roles. Director Abrahams (diverting from his spoof films Airplane! Hot Shots! and The Naked Gun) took on this project as a labor of love and makes it feel pretty lugubrious.
The small screen was the right place for this work and maybe Streep was simply too big a star to keep the movie balanced for its humble origins. A noble story is told but the script is so color-by-numbers that you could probably imagine the outcome before the first commercial break. It doesn’t do any harm to give this one a look but this story has been told too often to be truly memorable.