Patch Adams (1998)

Hunter “Patch” Adams is a real person, a man that had enough influence on the medical community that he had a movie made about his life.

Based on “Patch” Adams’ book Gesundheit: Good Health Is a Laughing Matter, Patch Adams stars Robin Williams as the title medical student, navigating a system that is doctor, and not patient, centered. After admitting himself to a mental institution, Hunter Adams realizes that treatment methods employed for the ill are not great. Patients identified by their disease and not as a person, with “hero” doctors always saving the day because they are smart and it’s always been that way.

“Patch” starts to fight against the system, running into Dean Walcott (Bob Gunton) who doesn’t enjoy that he cares about patients on a human level. His roommate Mitch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is angry that Patch is not taking things as seriously as he thinks it should be. Yet Patch persists, and patients respond to him and start to see improvement.

Adams is almost removed from school after he welcomes a visiting group of (all-male) gynecologists with a giant model papier-mâché pair of legs in stirrups during an obstetric conference, but he is allowed to stay due to his strong grades and his impact on patients. He founds a free clinic and begins to help patients who can’t afford traditional medical care. But when his classmate/girlfriend Carin (Monica Potter) is murdered by one of the patients the clinic is helping, Patch returns to those suicidal thoughts and wonders if it is all worth it.

Eventually, Dean Walcott discovers the free clinic, and turns Adams into the state medical board for practicing medicine without a license. Mitch urges him to file a grievance with the board, addressing Wolcott’s complaints about how Patch practices medicine. He convinces the board, and while they think his methods are a little questionable, they allow him to become a doctor after all.

Robin Williams left the world a little over six years ago. But before he did, he brought passion to his craft that entertained for decades. Patch Adams is no different. The movies has flaws to be certain; the actual Patch Adams complained about the depiction of himself in the movie. Nevertheless, the movie – and Williams’ performance – has heart.

Per FlickChart, the movie started around the middle of the movies that I have seen, ranking at #791. It’s also around the middle of Robin Williams movies that I’ve ranked, checking in at #9 of 17. After the rewatch and re-ranking, it moves up slightly – to #705, between X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Frida, while also jumping Jumanji on the Robin Williams list.

I watched Patch Adams via HBOMax, as it is currently getting a run on HBO and is off the other subscription-based streamers. If it’s a movie you haven’t seen in a while, or one that you are watching to complete your Robin Williams chronology, it’s worth the watch. Personally, if I was looking for a Robin Williams movie that is a little off the beaten path – i.e. not Good Will Hunting or Dead Poet’s Society – I’d watch Death to Smoochy. But your methods may vary.

Until next time…

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