Gross Anatomy, a seriocomic look at the first year of medical school, should be required viewing for anyone with aspirations in that direction, but for all others, film is about as exciting as a pop quiz.
The film, trying to be another Paper Chase, follows Matthew Modine, as the 26-year-old son of a fisherman, and other students through their courses, with particular focus on the anatomy lab, in which he’s teamed with four classmates to work on a cadaver. Dissecting group includes his too-serious, driven roommate Todd Field; married young mother Alice Carter; Modine’s nemesis, the judgmental, ultrapreppy John Scott Clough; and hard-working Daphne Zuniga, who reluctantly provides love interest for Modine.
Gross offers some nice, unexpected details: the anatomy profs, and key figures of authority, just happen to be a woman and a black man, played by Christine Lahti and Zakes Mokae. Another plus is the film’s convincing portrayal of med-school life.
However, the writers – working from a story by Mark Spragg, Howard Rosenman, Alan Jay Glueckman and Stanley Isaacs – could come up with nothing more than stick figures and repetitive, one-note problems. Biggest problem is Modine’s character; though there’s little on-screen evidence of his intelligence, he frequently is described as being so smart he can get by with minimum study. Lahti hasn’t much to do but look stern, but she’s good in her Big Scene near the end.