A Real Super Hero
People tend to have negative opinions of TV movies thinking they are the crude often vacuous relatives of big screen movies but once in a while one gets made which blows you away and as someone who watches a lot of TV movies I have seen a lot of those vacuous movies to know when one is special. One of those special ones is "Living Proof" based upon the true story of Dr. Dennis Slamon whose research, passion and refusal to give up in finding a drug to help those with Breast cancer lead to the creation of Herceptin. To be honest I don't know how much of Slamon's story as shown in "Living Proof" is true but it is a passionate and moving story which not only highlights the difficulties he faced getting the drug tested but also the personal pain, from always working to having to tell women that they are drying. And whilst some cold hearted people may watch "Living Proof" and say it manipulates the audiences hearts I don't care, it is such a powerful and touching story that it naturally makes you blub.
Now I am going to rather strangely not give you a synopsis because "Living Proof" is a vast movie which whilst focussing on Dr. Slamon's passion in creating a drug has lots going on, lots of characters, lost of episodes and it is impossible to do it justice without basically telling you everything which goes on. And that leads me to my only real criticism of the movie because for the first half hour whilst we are introduced to Dr. Slamon and learn about his research we also meets other people, women who we don't know who they are to start with. It almost has that initial feel of a disaster movie where we meet all the people who will end up pivotal when the disaster comes and that makes it feels slightly wrong. It sort of feels like in order to bring everyone in early on it has to do so quickly, never filling out their stories and in doing so making it feel a bit disjointed and rushed.
But the good news is that after about 30 minutes it finds its rhythm and we watch as the story unfolds in many different ways. We get to see the constant battle Dr. Slamon faced to keep his research going when some people were opposed to it and we see what affect that has on Slamon especially after over a decade of dedication and research as well as missing out on his family it could all be for nothing due to those opposed to it. We also get to meet those various women we were introduced early on and many more who have breast cancer and become part of the trial, providing this wonderful sense of camaraderie between the women as they go through treatment. Some of them you end up really connected to and when you see them go in to find out if the trial has been a success or not you really feel for them, it is quite surprising considering the disjointed start that you end up bonding with these women.
And in a way that is where "Living Proof" comes in to its own because as the story plays out we as an audience become more and more connected with the characters especially Dr, Slamon. When he can't get funding or approval we feel his frustration and anger, when he speaks with conviction about the women he could help you believe every word and when in a scene you watch him having to tell a woman they are not eligible for the tests it is painful. My hat goes off to Harry Connick Jr. because his characterisation is brilliant, relaxed and charming but at the same time convincing. But at the same time you feel for the various women who the story focuses on; Bernadette Peters as Barbara, Regina King as Ellie and Tammy Blanchard as Nicole are just a few of the actresses and women who we meet and who touch are hearts in one way or another and not always happily.
That brings me to the cast and I have mentioned just a few of the many recognizable names who appear in "Living Proof" in one way or another. And more importantly they all deliver good performances be it touching as in the case of Bernadette Peters or more entertaining as is the case of Amanda Bynes who is cast as a work experience student who ends up as passionate about Slamon's research as he does. It has to be said it is a mix of characters who we meet because some have powerful and dramatic stories whilst others are there more to deliver entertainment but it is a mix which works.
What this all boils down to is that "Living Proof" is an amazing movie and one which is far superior to what many people expect from TV movies. It is not without its problems but the power and emotion of the story and some surprisingly good performances make it well worth a watch.