Skip to main content

You should have been born in August.


Seinfeld
2.11: The Heart Attack

The Premise

Admitted to hospital with a suspected heart attack, George is semi-relieved to discover it’s just his tonsils acting up; they’ve grown back. Kramer’s suggestion of seeking relief through alternative medicine appeals to a budget-conscious George.

Observational

Larry Charles comes up trumps again. This starts out as a simple case of George being a hypochondriac but, with Charles’ anarchic sensibilities brought to bear, transforms into a poke at healthcare from all angles. Indeed, its great strength is how suited the main characters are to the different positions they are required to adopt on the subject.

Charles scripts are often distinctive for latiching onto Kramer to float non-mainstream thought. Charles isn’t necessarily agreeing or disagreeing with a topic; he’s simply recognising the comic mileage he can get out of it. So Kramer, whose often unreconsituted counterculture leanings maroon him two decades from home, can espouse what he sees as the dangers of modern medicine (“Get out right now! They’ll kill you in here!”), while the highly conservative Jerry is unremittingly dismissive of the quackery of alternative healer Tor Eckman (“And you’re not a doctor, but you play one in real life”; a rare example of the show accessing a character’s interior monologue).

It might seem that Jerry is proved right; George’s remedy resolutely fails (Tor turns George bluish purple, and fails to cure his tonsillitis) and he pays the price for being a cheapskate. But Jerry is as gullible as everyone else deep down (“You really think I’m eating too much dairy?” he responds to Tor’s diagnosis). And, while Jerry and George are suffering whiplash, Kramer has made full recovery (“Kramer went to see Eckman. He feels all better already”). Right in the middle is George. He is completely impartial with regard to alternative therapies, as long as they aren’t expensive; it’s another nice twist that the most materialist character buys into hippy remedies out of parsimoniousness.

George repeatedly gets short shrift from Jerry (“Why can’t I have a heart attack? I’m allowed”), culminating in the comedian’s mock smothering of his stricken friend (by this point he knows George has the all clear, but George is in the dark).

George: Just take the pillow and put it over my face.
Jerry: What, kind of like this?
(Elaine enters, startled.)
Elaine: Jerry!
Jerry: (Pretending to be caught in the act) Elaine… What are you doing here?

George’s reaction to the imminent diagnosis is priceless (“Oh, God. Mummy!”) but his relief on getting good news is predictably short-lived (“I completely skipped healthy adulthood”). Only George’s tonsils would grow back (and he didn’t even get some ice cream when he first had them out).

The big guest star of the episode is Stephen Tobolowsky. Except this was in his pre-Groundhog Dayera, when he was just beginning to get a foothold in movies with a succession of variable supporting turns (Bird on a Wire?) He’s great, but then it’s fair to say he has a gift of a part. When Kramer first mentions his herbalist friend (“He’s holistic”), Jerry expresses surprise that he’s out of prison, but presumably he knows him by hearsay rather than direct contact (“See, the medical establishment, they tried to frame him. He’s a rebel”). His stream of random advice is the highly eccentric, as he instructs George to wash only in cold water (“Can it be lukewarm?”)

Elaine’s date, or “Doctor Tongue” as she ends up calling him, is no less certifiable. Ever superficial, he catches her eye when he’s tending to George (Louise-Dreyfus’ giddy schoolgirl antics see them getting in each other’s way) but it soon turns sour on their date when he holds her tongue and holds forth on the organ’s wonders. By which time Elaine is thoroughly put-off (“A kiss? With the tongue? I don’t think so”).

The ambulance scene is possibly a bit too broad and indelicate a means of getting to the final scene. It’s amusing, but Seinfeld usually isn’t at its best when it does “action”.

The Heart Attackis also notable for the first mention of Kramer’s friend Bob Sacamano, who went in to hospital for routine surgery (a hernia operation) that was botched. Now he sits in the corner of a room intoning “My name is Bob!” Kramer is even more unhelpful than Jerry regarding George’s fears; completely oblivious, he brings a meal to George’s room and sits at the end of the bed like he’s watching him on TV.

Larry David also makes an appearance; he’s in some sci-fi cheapie on TV dressed in silver foil, going on about the end of the world (“flaming globes!”). Jerry awakes laughing in the middle of the night and jots down an idea he then finds illegible; when he discovers it was “Flaming globes of Sigmund” he is very disappointed. “That’s not funny”; except that it is. Very.

Quotable

Larry David: The planet’s on fire! It is just as you prophesised! The planets of our solar system are incinerating, Sigmund, like flaming globes!

George: Why can’t I have a heart attack? I’m allowed.

George: There’s nothing wrong with me?
Doctor: Well, I wouldn’t go that far.
George: Lupus? Is it lupus?

Doctor: And when you wake up, you can have some ice cream.
George: Yeah, that’s what they told me the last time.

Kramer: Get out right now! They’ll kill you in here!

Kramer: The next thing you know, you’ve got a hose coming out of your chest attached to a piece of luggage!

George: Oh, yeah. Holisitc. That’s what I need. That’s the answer.

Tor: You should have been born in August.

Elaine: I’m sorry, I can’t stay long. I don’t want to run into Doctor Tongue.

Verdict:


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

And my father was a real ugly man.

Marty (1955)
(SPOILERS) It might be the very unexceptional good-naturedness of Marty that explains its Best Picture Oscar success. Ernest Borgnine’s Best Actor win is perhaps more immediately understandable, a badge of recognition for versatility, having previously attracted attention for playing iron-wrought bastards. But Marty also took the Palme d’Or, and it’s curious that its artistically-inclined jury fell so heavily for its charms (it was the first American picture to win the award; Lost Weekend won the Grand Prix when that was still the top award).

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

I'm reliable, I'm a very good listener, and I'm extremely funny.

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
(SPOILERS) When I wrote my 23 to see in 2019, I speculated that James Cameron might be purposefully giving his hand-me-downs to lesser talents because he hubristically didn’t want anyone making a movie that was within a spit of the proficiency we’ve come to expect from him. Certainly, Robert Rodriguez and Tim Miller are leagues beneath Kathryn Bigelow, Jimbo’s former spouse and director of his Strange Days screenplay. Miller’s no slouch when it comes to action – which is what these movies are all about, let’s face it – but neither is he a craftsman, so all those reviews attesting that Terminator: Dark Fate is the best in the franchise since Terminator 2: Judgment Day may be right, but there’s a considerable gulf between the first sequel (which I’m not that big a fan of) and this retcon sequel to that sequel.

The world is one big hospice with fresh air.

Doctor Sleep (2019)
(SPOILERS) Doctor Sleep is a much better movie than it probably ought to be. Which is to say, it’s an adaption of a 2013 novel that, by most accounts, was a bit of a dud. That novel was a sequel to The Shining, one of Stephen King’s most beloved works, made into a film that diverged heavily, and in King’s view detrimentally, from the source material. Accordingly, Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep also operates as a follow up to the legendary Kubrick film. In which regard, it doesn’t even come close. And yet, judged as its own thing, which can at times be difficult due to the overt referencing, it’s an affecting and often effective tale of personal redemption and facing the – in this case literal – ghosts of one’s past.

It’s like being smothered in beige.

The Good Liar (2019)
(SPOILERS) I probably ought to have twigged, based on the specific setting of The Good Liar that World War II would be involved – ten years ago, rather than the present day, so making the involvement of Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren just about believable – but I really wish it hadn’t been. Jeffrey Hatcher’s screenplay, adapting Nicholas Searle’s 2016 novel, offers a nifty little conning-the-conman tale that would work much, much better without the ungainly backstory and motivation that impose themselves about halfway through and then get paid off with equal lack of finesse.

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012)
The final finale of the Twilight saga, in which pig-boy Jacob tells Bella that, “No, it's not like that at all!” after she accuses him of being a paedo. But then she comes around to his viewpoint, doubtless displaying the kind of denial many parents did who let their kids spend time with Jimmy Savile or Gary Glitter during the ‘70s. It's lucky little Renesmee will be an adult by the age of seven, right? Right... Jacob even jokes that he should start calling Edward, “Dad”. And all the while they smile and smile.

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

The sooner we are seamen again, the better.

The Bounty (1984)
(SPOILERS) How different might David Lean’s late career have been if Ryan’s Daughter hadn’t been so eviscerated, and his confidence with it? Certainly, we know about his post-A Passage to India projects (Empire of the Sun, Nostromo), but there were fourteen intervening years during which he surely might have squeezed out two or three additional features. The notable one that got away was, like Empire of the Sun, actually made: The Bounty. But by Roger Donaldson, after Lean eventually dropped out. And the resulting picture is, as you might expect, merely okay, notable for a fine Anthony Hopkins performance as Bligh (Lean’s choice), but lacking any of the visual poetry that comes from a master of the craft.