Most actors love to play against type -- comedians are always looking for a chance to prove they can be “serious” actors, guys who are usually heroes want a chance to be the scenery-chewing villain, and beautiful sex symbols look to get respect by dressing down and playing someone “real.” Orlando Bloom has been a handsome and heroic leading man in not one but two very successful movie franchises, portraying Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and the following two sequels, as well as Legolas in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. So who can blame him for taking the bait when he was given the opportunity to play a character who is not only sinister and socially awkward, but has questionable fashion sense and a bad haircut? Bloom was eager enough to star in The Good Doctor that he also signed on as a co-producer in order to give the film some extra marquee value, but the results were probably not quite what he expected.
In The Good Doctor, Bloom plays Dr. Martin Blake, a young internist who is serving his residency at a hospital in California. Blake is a bit stuffy and has trouble making friends, and his first few days don’t go especially well after he accidentally prescribes the wrong medication for one of his patients. He gets on the wrong side of Theresa (Taraji P. Henson), the no-nonsense head nurse on his floor, and his mistake puts him in an awkward position with his superior, the casually inscrutable Dr. Waylans (Rob Morrow). One of Blake’s patients is a pretty 18-year-old woman named Diane Nixon (Riley Keough), who has a kidney infection. Diane clearly likes him, and looking in on her becomes the highlight of his day -- so much so that Blake is deeply disappointed when she’s released to recover at home. Diane’s family invites Blake over for dinner, and he hatches a plan to bring her back to the hospital: He replaces the antibiotics she’s been given with sugar pills, and soon Diane returns to his ward and is under his care again. Blake digs himself in deeper, replacing her IV drips with different medicines and changing test results to ensure that the woman he loves doesn’t go home too soon. As Blake seemingly puts his best efforts into Diane’s increasingly difficult case, he earns the respect of Theresa, Waylans, and his fellow interns. However, an orderly named Jimmy (Michael Pena) discovers that Blake is up to no good, and demands that the internist use his prescription pad to buy his silence.
Orlando Bloom certainly gives The Good Doctor his best effort, but while he appears to relish playing a cold, corrupt character for a change, the truth is that he never seems terribly convincing as a bad guy. His infatuation with Diane feels real enough, and Riley Keough plays off him beautifully, giving her distracted teenage monotone just enough of a come-hither underpinning that it’s not hard to see why he’s attracted to her. But as Bloom plays him, Blake simply doesn’t lie very well or cover his tracks with much skill, and given how often he has to do both in this story, it’s hard to imagine why so few people are capable of seeing through him. Michael Pena gives Jimmy plenty of charm and menace, and he’s spot-on as Blake’s nemesis -- in fact, one wishes he had played a bigger role in the film earlier on. And if Rob Morrow, Taraji P. Henson, and J.K. Simmons mostly provide window dressing in this movie, they play their roles with assurance and bring a sense of naturalism that Bloom does not. John Enbom’s screenplay has the bones of a good psychological thriller in it, and Lance Daly directs with a solid, workmanlike touch that’s short on flash but tells the story with efficiency and elegance. But at its heart, The Good Doctor is a tale about a man whose romantic obsession turns him into a criminal, and Orlando Bloom never seems to possess the nerve or the skill to be the sort of crook this movie needs him to be. Maybe The Good Doctor would have been better off if someone else played the unscrupulous Dr. Blake, and Bloom came in to save the day in the final reel. leave a comment --Mark Deming