Coma (1978)
May 28, 2018 9:29 AM - Subscribe

When a young female doctor notices an unnatural amount of comas occurring in her hospital she uncovers a horrible conspiracy.

NYTimes: In his first film as a director, “Westworld,” Mr. Crichton made very effi- cient use of some Disneyland‐like robots. “Coma” is the kind of movie that turns real‐life actors into robotlike functions of the story. Miss Bujold, Mr. Douglas and Mr. Widmark, as well as Rip Torn, Elizabeth Ashley and a stunningly beautiful actress named Lois Chiles, are as mechanical as dolls Whose expressions are controlled by a computer's console.

WaPo: Crichton's second astute move, the casting of Genevieve Bujold as Dr. Wheeler, places an intriguing and resourceful actress at the center of the suspense mechanism. Bujold isn't the herione envisioned by Cook -- a 23-year-old dish -- but she makes much more sense as a tenacious professional without ceasing to be an appealing focus of human interest.

Bujold enters in a surprisingly defensive, irritable mood, bickering over domestic chores with boyfriend Michael Douglas, cast as a fellow resident who makes most of the conciliatory gestures in their relationship. As a rule, heroines tend to come on softer and thrillers tend to come on mellower. Both the star and the movie display taut, edgy characteristics from the outset. Bujold confessed that she was a bit worried about this approach, which leads her to believe that Dr. Wheeler will never end up living happily ever after with Douglas' Dr. Bellows, but she gets the opportunity to multiply her character's moods without betraying her pride or determination as the plot unfolds.

Den of Geek: Geneviève Bujold plays Dr Susan Wheeler, a prickly, driven character who works hard, and stands up for herself at the end of the long day when her boyfriend Mark (Michael Douglas) suggests she might fetch him a beer before starting to cook dinner. The camera doesn’t make friends with her; she stands confrontationally before us and refuses to back down, lifting up her chin, not inviting us to warm to her. She’s brilliant, and she perfectly suits a film that deals with the difficulty women face in communicating effectively with men.

Initially I think we’re meant to feel ambivalent about whether she’s uncovering a conspiracy or not. She doesn’t manage to persuade her boyfriend or her male co-workers that she’s not just having some sort of hysterical episode. We’d believe Robert Redford from the word go – Geneviève Bujold, we’re not so sure about. This element highlights a script that asks you to consider what it’s like to never really be heard.

posted by MoonOrb (4 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Crichton loves and fears technology, but, as both a writer and a director, doesn't care much about people, which has often been a fatal flaw in the films he has directed. But Bujold makes this film work, pretty much in spite of dead performances by the rest of the cast. Pauline Kael wrote (The New Yorker, February 6, 1978 ):
In Coma, Geneviève Bujold, with her piquant features, her waif's face and sharp jaw, is like a soft little furry animal--a mink--with a dirty mind… the [other] actors seem vacuous and immaculate, disinfected of any traces of personality. But not Bujold. There's no way to sanitize this actress. With her slightly moldy Peter Pan pertness, she's irreducibly curious--that's her sexy-witch essence. This is the first Hollywood picture in which Bujold has the central starring role, and she manages to sustain her performance by snuggling deep inside the shallow material... [Her] suspiciousness--the sneaky expressions she gets when she doesn't go along with what her superiors are telling her--is all we've got to hang on to in this sterile environment. There is not an instant when her closed-in face isn't intent; thin-skinned, touchy, she seems almost to sniff out fakery. When she crawls around in the dark places of the hospital … she's totally engaged in what she's doing, in the most sensory, little-beastie way. Climbing and wriggling around, high up, trying to get a foothold in a slippery place, she peels off her panty hose, and it would not seem surprising if the striptease continued. As she goes from one dangerous situation to the next, the narrative trap tightens: you fear for her safety, and the suspense gets you in the stomach, and maybe the chest, too….
posted by ubiquity at 7:29 AM on May 29, 2018

My mother adores Geneviève Bujold based on her performance in this film, which she saw before I was born, and is still miffed that the producers of Star Trek: Voyager didn't keep her as Captain Janeway.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:51 AM on May 29, 2018

I always thought this film was missing a final seen.

She takes the police to the facility housing the donor bodies, but they find an empty warehouse.
Her story is doubted and it is implied that that the conspiracy is kept going somewhere else.
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 3:24 PM on May 29, 2018

Tom Selleck's in the trailer. In a coma.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:25 PM on May 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

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