Serial killer sagas have always been hot tickets. I’ve liked exactly five — Manhunter, Mindhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, Se7en and Zodiac — but then I’m an outlier.
Jett and Cait are big fans of serial killer “product.” Netflix’s idiotically titled Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story is “the ninth most popular English-language TV show of all time, with 56 million households having viewed all 10 episodes.” Against my better judgment I watched three or four episodes…later.
A friend had told me that The Good Nurse, a stand-alone, fact-based drama about the hospital serial killer Charles Cullen, was quite good so I caught it the other night in Manhattan. I was underwhelmed. Mystified even. It’s one of those films that you manage to endure. It’s certainly nothing to write home about. I began losing patience around the 40-minute mark, and then I was stuck for another 80.
It’s one of the darkest and dreariest looking films I’ve seen in ages (obviously intentional and quite the contrast as the dp, Jody Lee Lipes, shot Trainwreck and Manchester By The Sea).
All through it I was asking myself “who could possibly care about this glum, plodding little film?” The answer, of course, is that tens of millions will become instant fans, no matter how flat or slow it is. Simply because Cullen (Eddie Redmayne) murdered at least 40 hospital patients and perhaps hundreds of others with injections of insulin and dejoxin, etc. That’s all they care about.
Redmayne’s Cullen is a kind of soft-voiced, good-natured dolt…dullness incarnate until the very end. Jessica Chastain is Amy Loughren, a nurse who’d been fairly friendly with Cullen but later helped detectives get the goods on him.
A friend called The Good Nurse “Fincheresque” but David Fincher would never direct a film this dull.
By the way, what other film set in a hospital focused on an unstable man who surreptitiously kills patients with overdoses of insulin and dijoxin? Paddy Chayefsky’s The Hospital (‘71).
Friendo #2: “Although it might have been taking artistic license, if I had been brought in to punch up The Good Nurse I would have suggested the following: Chastain’s character agrees to help the police only because she’s convinced Redmayne is innocent and wants to prove it to them. She’s then doubly horrified to learn the truth.”
Angry text to friendo #2 after I came out of it: “I seriously dislike this DREARY-ASS FILM, which YOU recommended. Nobody wants to hang out with these dreary-ass characters. Nobody cares about a male nurse killing patients with insulin and dojoxin. Actually that’s inaccurate — tens of millions will watch this thing and tell each other it’s great. It’s just me who doesn’t like it.
Friendo #2 to HE: You’re wrong.
HE to friendo #2: It’s a despicably boring film. I didn’t care who lived or died.
Friendo #2 to HE: I honestly thought it was a Master Class in acting and easily one of the best Chastain performances ever.
HE to friendo #2: Blaaahhh!!!
Friendo #2 to HE: And the look of the film perfectly expressed or mirrored her own existence.
HE to friendo #2: I could barely see the damn thing with the drained colors and dreary shadows.
Friendo #2 to HE: Loved that.
HE to friendo #2: This movie needs to euthanize itself. Wait, I didn’t mean that — it just slipped out.