Extraordinary Measures

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 8:00 am

Harrison Ford has his best role in years as a testy scientist who listens to classic rock as he works all night in the lab and who may just have the key to a crucial medicine for a disease that kills children. Brendan Fraser plays John Crowley, the father of two children with a rare genetic disorder called Pompe disease that weakens muscles, enlarges organs, and had a life expectancy of less than eight years. Crowley quit his job as an executive in a pharmaceutical company to start a biotechnology firm to support the most promising research into a treatment for the disease.

That research was being done by Dr. Robert Stonehill (Ford), a twice-divorced, sardonic, and very stubborn professor. Crowley offers him the chance to get the resources he needs to test his theories. He raises the money for a start-up and handles the business side while Stonehill cranks up the Grateful Dead and insults people.

Ford, who bought the rights to the story when he read about it in the newspaper, produced the film and his long-time Hollywood experience and sure sense of story-telling shows. Screenwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs (“Chocolat,” “The Shipping News”) gently streamlined the story to shape the narrative. The Stonehill character is based on several different scientists who worked on the research and some of the most dramatic moments are shorthand summaries of real-life developments. But all of this is in aid of a powerful story that is pro-life in the broadest and most profound sense. Crowley has to ask himself what is best for his children — to be with them as much as possible while they are alive or to leave them for 20-hour days in the hopes of finding treatment that could keep them alive longer.

Ford inhabits the role the way his character inhabits his well-worn jeans and t-shirt. He knows this guy. He has no illusions but he likes him and he makes us like him, too. Fraser, too often underrated as an actor, manages to make Crowley inspiring without making him unbelievable, especially in the scenes with the children and with Keri Russell as his wife. Jacobs’ script skirts the usual tensions. The Crowleys have some agonizing moments, but they never question their commitment to their children and each other. The children are played by Meredith Droeger, who has a nice dry humor, and Diego Velazquez, who has beautifully expressive eyes. Their healthy brother John Jr. (Sam M. Hall) has a lovely moment when he shows how devoted he is to helping his siblings. And Courtney B. Vance is as always most welcome as the father of two other children with Pompe, making a strong impression in his brief time on screen.

Because the tension is between the Crowleys and the disease and between Crowley and Stonehill and Crowley and the bureaucrats and money people, the story can present the family as functional in the face of the greatest possible tensions and terrors. In the past, we’ve seen Ford fight the Empire and the Nazis and Fraser take on mummies, but in this story they take on something even more scary and the result is touching and inspiring.

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Based on a true story Drama Family Issues

Extraordinary Measures: The Inspirational Quilt

Posted on January 16, 2010 at 3:35 pm

“Extraordinary Measures is the real story of a man who needed a miracle for his sick children and quit his job to work full time on raising money to support the medical research that might help keep them alive. The movie stars Brendan Fraser as the father and Harrison Ford as the doctor. But the real story continues, not only in the continuing fight to help children who struggle with the life-threatening genetic disease featured in the film but in the inspiration that the story has given to others struggling with what seem like insurmountable challenges.
The makers of the film are inviting people to tell their stories on an “inspirational quilt” made from videos. They are looking for “uplifting stories that include themes of triumph over tragedy, overcoming adversity, overcoming illness/disability/injury, acts of altruism, generosity and simple heroism. The Quilt is a community expressing the power of good in the human spirit, and a platform to share and connect stories of hope and inspiration.” If you have such a story, submit a video and you can win $10,000 for the charity you support. Or, visit the site to take a look at the videos uploaded by others and vote for the one you think is most deserving of the prize.
The movie may be good — I will let you know when I see it. But the videos are engrossing, touching, and, yes, inspiring. Take a look and vote for the one you want to support.

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Behind the Scenes The Real Story
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The Real Story: the Crowleys of ‘Extraordinary Measures’

Posted on January 13, 2010 at 3:55 pm

“Extraordinary Measures” stars Brendan Fraser as John Crowley, the real-life dad who quit his job to raise money for research that could help his two children, critically ill with an incurable genetic disorder called Pompe disease. Here is a featurette with the real John and Aileen Crowley and their children.

For more information, read The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million–And Bucked the Medical Establishment–In a Quest to Save His Children and Chasing Miracles: The Crowley Family Journey of Stength, Hope, and Joy.

 

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Behind the Scenes The Real Story
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