Is third-year medical school as difficult as they say it is? VITAL SIGNS, starring Diane Lane and Adrian Pasdar, answers this question with a resounding "yes." But despite its success at portraying the trials and tribulations of this critical year, the film is slow-paced and for the most
part predictable. VITAL SIGNS' six main characters, Gina (Lane), Michael (Pasdar), Kenny (Jack Gwaltney), Suzanne (Jane Adams), Bobby Hayes (Tim Ransom), and another, female Bobby (Lisa Jane Persky), are all friends and student doctors at a major California university who face the toughest year of
their education together. This pack of masochists is led by Dean of Third Year Studies and Chief of Surgery Dr. David Redding (Jimmy Smits). The movie's main focus is on the rivalry between Michael and Kenny. The two compete for honors rotation and surgical internship, Redding's approval, and
virtually everything else. But towards the film's end, a crisis arises with one of Michael's patients and it's Kenny who bails his colleague out. Another rivalry involves surgical resident Dr. Ballentine (Bradley Whitford), who instructs Michael to give a cancer patient (Norma Aleandro) a certain
treatment that Michael knows in his heart is wrong. Going against Ballentine's orders and university rules, he cares for the patient his own way. Outraged, Dr. Redding calls a hearing and suspends Michael. But Kenny manages to clear him by informing Dr. Redding that Ballentine was jealous over
losing Gina to Michael, and consequently sought to jeopardize the life of one of Michael's patients in an effort to make Michael look bad. Meanwhile, Kenny's marriage to Lauren (Laura San Giacomo) is suffering from the stress of medical school, and they eventually separate. But, like most of the
problems in this film, their conflict is eventually resolved, and everybody ends up interning at the hospital of his or her choice.
VITAL SIGNS is believably acted, and well directed by Marisa Silver (PERMANENT RECORD). What damages the film most is its flawed script by Jeb Stuart (best known for action films such as DIE HARD and LOCK UP) and Larry Ketron (who cowrote PERMANENT RECORD with Silver and adapted his own play for
the atrocious FRESH HORSES). The story is predictable, and the film conspicuously fails to create interesting female characters. The women students in VITAL SIGNS for the most part serve only as love interests and objects of competition. Although there is one harrowing scene in which Gina loses a
pediatric patient, more time is spent examining the complications that arise when she leaves Ballentine for Michael than on her struggles as a medical student. And it would be refreshing to see Adams' Suzanne in the operating room at least once, rather than just in bed with Ransom's Bobby Hayes.
(Nudity, sexual situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1990
- Rating: R
- Review: Is third-year medical school as difficult as they say it is? VITAL SIGNS, starring Diane Lane and Adrian Pasdar, answers this question with a resounding "yes." But despite its success at portraying the trials and tribulations of this critical year, the fil… (more)