Let’s begin with The Good Doctor 2017 full movie cast. Freddie Highmore (best-known for his roles in Bates Motel, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory) plays Dr. Shaun Murphy, an up-and-coming surgeon who also happens to have autism and savant syndrome. This is a very difficult role for anyone to play given how broad the autism spectrum truly is. Some criticism has happened as various TV productions and movies try to tackle autism issues.
There exists no “one size fits all” in trying to define characters on the spectrum. This list in recent years includes characters such as Walter Hill in Joyful Noise, Billy in the new Power Rangers Movie, Jane in Jane Wants a Boyfriend, and newest in Sam Gardener, a high-functioning teenager with autism in Netflix’s Atypical.
There appears to be an obsession with autism political correctness in a number of autism-related projects. Producers strive for realism in portraying these autistic characters with the danger of not clearly understanding the individuality of each person on the spectrum. It’s a razor’s edge. Trying to avoid making “inspiration porn” but also producing the programming meaningful to people in the autism community. Atypical, which received many positive reviews (77% rating from critics and 97% rating from viewers on Rotten Tomatoes) for instance also received some criticism for not hiring an autism consultant who was on the spectrum to help add a realistic portrayal of the specific role.
To be fair, Atypical had a full-time consultant in the fabulous Michelle Dean along with the help from Exceptional Minds, a computer animation studio and non-profit digital arts school for young adults on the autism spectrum. Exceptional Minds worked on some scenes for The Good Doctor 2017 movie crew and also featured in Atypical.
The Good Doctor movie does a great job of navigating this razor’s edge. Freddie does well in his debut, showing several characteristics that can accompany an autism diagnosis. These characteristics include stuffs like social awkwardness, lack of eye contact, playing with his hands during difficult situations, etc. That last one is still something I do to this day as an adult who is on the autism spectrum. Freddie’s take will resonate with many in the community. It will be interesting to see how his character evolves moving forward into the season.
What really stood out to me though was the discussion during one scene where they are deciding Dr. Murphy’s fate and how people with autism lack empathy. How can they be sympathetic to patients and their families? It was refreshing to see Dr. Murphy have the opportunity to show his ability to care for others when asked point blank “why do you want to be a surgeon?” based off a traumatic event in Shaun’s history. I had to pause the show because I was sobbing like a baby.
As for the script there are several plot lines that will intrigue audiences and the direction couldn’t be crisper from Seth Gordon along with the writing done by David Shore (the creator and Director of House).
While a number of people in the autism community may tune in for Dr. Murphy, autism is only one factor of the show that will draw audiences. Based on statistics from the Department of Labor, a majority of those with disabilities in the U.S. today are unemployed.
Discussing the hiring of someone with a disability highlights its importance. There are other areas that come to mind including relationships in the workplace, safety and different types of ways people learn. Dr. Murphy for example thinks in pictures (as can be seen when he’s on screen when he’s visualizing the human body or trying to remember a definition of a specific word).
This show has staying power and I can only hope the creators of the show along with Sony and ABC will continue to include voices of those on the spectrum as the show continues.
Dr. Glassman, who first met Dr. Murphy at 14, said it best during a Board of Directors meeting when he said…
“Aren’t we judged by how we treat people? I don’t mean as doctors I mean as people. Especially those who don’t have the same advantages that we have. We got Shaun and we give hope to those living with limitations that those limitations are not what they think they are. That they do have a chance. We got Shaun and we make this hospital better for it.”
Freddie Highmore is an immensely talented actor, and he brings intelligence and depth to his portrayal of Dr. Shaun Murphy, his character on The Good Doctor full movie. A newly minted surgeon with both autism and savant syndrome, he must navigate a range of challenging workplace situations and social dilemmas.
The problem with the show is that it doesn’t believe in Highmore’s resourceful and substantial acting skills. Every other aspect of the show is either overwrought or frustratingly simplistic, as if it’s determined to get the audience to care about Shaun by hook or by crook. But Highmore makes the audiences care, thanks to his impressive presence and brilliant portrayal. Unfortunately, the actor can’t undo the flat writing and one-dimensional elements in the show’s unpromising pilot.
Almost every scene with other doctors at St. Bonaventure Hospital scene comes off like a third-rate “Grey’s Anatomy” ripoff: various subplots arrive complete with hot doctors, hookups and banter that doesn’t quite make the grade. Flashbacks to Shaun’s childhood are even worse — they’re so preposterously tragic that they’re almost funny.
This unfortunate execution is a pity, considering that Highmore tackles his role with sensitivity and nuance, and the show’s depiction of autism is deep and visually cogent. It’s seemingly impossible to make Richard Schiff uninteresting on screen, so he’s a welcome sight as a doctor at the hospital who fights to get Shaun on the staff.
But everything else on The Good Doctor 2017 online undercuts what they bring to the story. Shaun’s first case carries with it a reasonable amount of suspense, but too much of The Good Doctor full movie is a manipulative snooze. TV needs a good new medical drama, but this probably isn’t going to be it.
A quote I tell audiences when I travel the country speaking is that, “Autism can’t define me. I define autism.” Shaun and I are not defined by our diagnosis.
I hope that we can give this show a shot and if we do, like giving Dr. Murphy a shot at employment and something he enjoys, we will all be pleasantly surprised by the results.