Orlando Bloom’s timorous, eternally boyish air almost makes him a too-easy fit for the role of The Good Doctor’s protagonist, an uptight young English physician who’s just moved to Southern California to start his residency. He aims to be the good doctor of the title, though that isn’t a description audience members are likely to apply to him after watching the film. Awkward and arrogant, Bloom’s character is reminiscent of The Social Network’s take on Mark Zuckerberg: someone who was propelled in his nascent career by the idea that it would bring him the respect and acceptance he doesn’t seem able to command in a social setting.
The Good Doctor was directed by Lance Daly (Kisses) from a screenplay by Party Down co-creator John Enbom, and it’s a portrait-as-thriller whose fundamental elements are all fine, but whose protagonist just isn’t as grippingly complex as the film needs him to be. Bloom eats alone in his sparse, all-white apartment, totes a leather doctor’s bag to work, and wears a shirt and tie underneath his lab coat instead of the scrubs others prefer. When a nurse (Taraji P. Henson) scolds him for illegible handwriting, he complains to his boss (Rob Morrow) that in spite of his degrees, “she treats me like I’m just some nobody.” Like many a screen doctor, he’s egotistical and better on paper or academically than he is in terms of bedside manner, but the process in which he gets in touch with his humane side doesn’t go gently or in ways that exactly warm the heart.
Unable to make a good impression on Morrow (the cafeteria sitting arrangements are made to look as socially fraught as any high school’s), and concerned about a possible mistake he made, Bloom gets his only solace via a pretty high-school girl (Riley Keough) he treats for an infection. She’s so grateful and admiring that he comes up with ways to interfere with her treatment to keep her in the hospital and in his care. Whatever his idea of being a good doctor may be, it’s clear his idea of a good patient is one who worships him. The film tries to up the tension in the third act, in which it seems Bloom may be exposed, but it regards him throughout with such clinical indifference that it seems unimportant whether his gross misdeeds catch up with him, and whether he’s learned a thing.