Setting: Grady, South Carolina
The films opens at Washington Presbyterian Hospital in a dark, murky, extremely busy Emergency Room where people are crying for help.
Ben Stone, M.D., walks into the scene, dismissing a man who can’t feel his arm. Despite the chaos and confusion, he’s whistling as he rushes through the hallways.
After passing a large man on a gurney and muttering, “What’s this, ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents?'”, he goes into a room to help out with a gunshot wound victim. As he works, he asks, “Okay, okay, question: Beverly Hills, the most beautiful women in the world, plastic surgery; what do these three things have in common? Huh? Me, in less than a week.”
And there it is: The premise of our film. Well…sort of.
He’s obviously a very adept doctor, but too ambitious and in it for the wrong reasons. He’s also obviously not well-liked. One of the nurses refuses to attend his going away party, even though the cake is a big butt with a graphic anus. He tries to get the guys to go out with him to dinner, but they refuse.
One doctor sticks around long enough to say,” At the risk of sounding schmaltzy, I just want to tell you that you’re a schmuck and I hope I never see you again.” He tells Ben that he’s a good doctor and that he had hoped that Ben would stay in medicine. Ben looks thoughtful as his fellow doctor leaves him alone.
The opening credits start with a traveling montage of Dr. Stone in his 1956 Speedster Porsche. Coming upon a construction area, he grows impatient and drives around it, laughing at the poor law-abiding schmucks. This same impatience causes him to pass a large truck carrying hay and he misses his exit to Interstate 95.
As he tries to drive and look at a map at the same time, he barely misses a couple of women walking cows in the middle of the road. He tries to regain control and finally crashes to a stop after plowing through a newly painted white picket fence as the builder and a policeman calmly look on.
However, Ben Stone is not calm. He rushes out of his car, feeling his extremities, making sure that all of his bones are still intact, especially his fingers.
He sees the policeman and is glad to see him, saying so. As he’s explaining who he is and where he’s going, a tow-truck pulls up. When Ben tells the policeman that his name is Ben Stone, the cop says, “Did he say he’s been stoned?” and Melvin, the tow-truck driver responds with, “He says he’s from L.A.” The fence builder refuses to accept any money for the destruction of his fence because no one can pay him for a fence he built himself.
Ben feels like he’s being attacked and framed for using drugs so he tells the cop that he won’t put up with any small town bullshit and then asks, “What are you gonna do, lock me up?”
It just so happens that the upset fence builder is the town judge, Judge Evans of Grady, South Carolina, who finds Ben guilty of reckless driving. Ben’s response: “This is insane.” Melvin’s retort: “No. This is Grady.”
Ben’s sentence is 16 hours of community service as a resident doctor at the Grady Memorial Hospital. After Ben complains, the sentence is upped to 32 hours. In addition to this, his car has been taken to Melvin’s shop for repairs.
Ben makes his way to the hospital in the pouring rain. He is ‘greeted’ by the head nurse, Nurse Packard. He tells her who he is and asks for food and lodging. She stares at him severely and asks him for I.D. When Ben asks for the doctor on call, Nurse Packard pulls a sheet of paper from the wall that has an old man’s picture on it. She reads the paragraph underneath the picture to Ben:
“When to call me: You’ve been stabbed, shot, poisoned, separated from an appendage, knocked or beaten unconscious, run over by a tractor mower or generally about to bleed to death. Otherwise, leave me alone. Signed Doctor Aurelius Edsel Hogue M.D.”
Nurse Packard shows him to his quarters which amounts to a surgery room with some sheets on the operating table. When Ben asks her if this is the best she can do, she looks at him for a second then simply says, “No.”
We next see Ben asleep on the operating table, although he seems a bit fitful. He opens his eyes, hearing someone saying his name. He screams, seeing a giant squash staring down at him. Fortunately, it turns out to be Mayor Nicholson in a squash costume and he is much more friendly than Nurse Packard. As he drives Ben to more suitable quarters for his stay, he lists the highlights of Grady such as being the Squash Capital of the South, having two gas stations and a Winn Dixie.
Mayor Nicholson takes Ben to a cabin by the lake and they are greeted by three older ladies who call themselves the Welcoming Committee: Miss Violet, Lillian and Maddie. Two of the ladies have heaping plates of homemade southern food. The third has a “Hungry Man dinner. I’m a bad cook.”
Although he is wary about being left alone with these ladies, the Mayor leaves. We next see Ben sitting in a chair underneath a quilt that the ladies are making, full of food and liquor, telling the ladies all about plastic surgery. Violet tells him of the legend of the friendship quilt. The first person to sleep under a friendship quilt will meet the one they’re going to marry. Lillian corrects her saying that the person will dream of the one they’re going to marry. But it’s bunk.
We drift into Ben’s subconscious, watching his dream of a lovely young woman swimming naked in the lake outside the cabin. Ben wakes abruptly and goes outside, belching loudly. When he looks up, the woman from his dream is walking out of the lake, still naked. He’s a little stunned, but she is completely nonplussed. After some witty banter, she leaves and Ben finally blinks.
The Mayor picks Ben up and drives him into town, continuing to list Grady’s virtues. It’s obvious that the Mayor wants Ben to stay in Grady and become the town doctor. Ben dismisses all of this and asks the Mayor to dismiss his sentence. The Mayor refuses saying that if he did that, he’d never convince Ben to stay. “Get off the interstate, Ben Stone.”
The Mayor takes Ben to the local diner for breakfast, where he meets the City Council. They offer him the job of resident doctor for $35, 000 a year. Ben just laughs them off, making it clear that he has no interest in staying in Grady.
When Ben gets to the hospital, Nurse Packard is as charming as ever and even clocks him in. She also refuses to let Ben make a long distance call with the hospital telephone. She tells him where the pay phone is and that the ambulance driver, Lou, would be there shortly to show him around.
While making his collect call to the Halberstrom clinic in hopes to delay his interview for a few days, the woman from the lake walks into the room. After his call is done, he flirts with her shamelessly and is rather surprised to find out that she is Lou, the ambulance driver.
After Ben strikes out with Lou, he goes to the lobby, which is now full of patients. Nurse Packard tells him that when they hear a new doctor is town they come running. “Any ol’ doctor” will do.
Some of the patients are legitimate: spider bites, fishing hooks through the thumb. But some are there for dirty glasses and for Ben to read their mail.
When the day is over and Ben is leaving, Nurse Packard clocks him out. He turns on her but before he can get a word out, a couple with their son come in asking Nurse Packard to call Doc Hogue. Ben stops her and assures them that he is a doctor.
After Ben listens to Zed’s heart and asks him a few questions, he sends him and his parents to the examination room. He tells Nurse Packard to call Athens General and send their helicopter. Nurse Packard says that she better call Doc Hogue. He cuts off the phone and tells her, “Listen to me. Hogue is not here. I’m here. You do it.”
Ben goes to the examination room and tells the couple that their son is having a cardiac emergency and that Zed is probably going to need surgery. Nurse Packard walks into the doorway and tells him that Doc Hogue says the boy probably just has a stomach ache and that they should give him a Coca-Cola.
Ben flies to the phone and says, “Listen, Doctor, I’ve got a boy here in cardiac crisis. You can’t treat that with Coca-Cola or Bisquick. We’re gonna have to use real medicine this time. Now I’m sending him to Athens General. You’re his regular fucking doctor. You get your fat ass out of bed, get down here and go with him!”
As Ben is rolling the boy outside on a gurney, Doc Hogue drives up. He examines Zed and asks him if he’s been sampling his daddy’s chaw. The boy says yes. Doc Hogue opens a Coke and hands it to the boy.
Hogue turns on Ben. “Well, nice work Hollywood. You were just about to crack open the chest of a six year old boy to cure a case of diarrhea. Now listen up, smartass. Next time I tell you how to treat a patient of mine, you better dam well do it….Doctor. I doubt you’d know crap from Crisco.”
That same night, Ben goes to see how his car is doing and finds that Melvin has taken it completely apart. He tells Ben that they need an oil pump but he doesn’t have one. A guy in Oregon has one, but doesn’t take checks or credit cards. Ben tells Melvin to stall him and that he’ll get the money somehow.
The next morning, he goes to the diner for breakfast and sits at the counter. A young, heavily-accented woman sits next to him. Ben introduces himself and she says that she’s “dying to get out of this town.” Ben quickly escapes from her and sits with Lou, who he had spotted earlier.
Lou isn’t too happy to see him and asks him to take himself and the big slap of pork on his plate elsewhere because she’s a vegetarian and doesn’t want it near her. Ben doesn’t leave and finds out that she’s studying to be a lawyer. He assumes this means she wants to leave Grady, but she informs him that she plans to practice in Grady, which he finds laughable.
Henry ‘Hank’ Gordon walks in and stands in front of their booth. Lou introduces them. Hank refuses to shake Ben’s hand and tells him that he’s in his chair. Lou tells Ben under her breath that Hank is just a friend. Hank sits with them and offers Ben life insurance, being the local insurance salesman.
To make matters worse, the ‘dying to get out of this town’ girl comes to the booth and asks about suicide rates in doctors. Lou excuses herself and the girl asks Ben if doctors know more about sex than normal people. Once again, Ben makes a quick escape.
Once at the hospital, Nurse Packard clocks him in. Ben tells her off about it, but she just stares at him and tells him that he has a visitor.
He turns around and finds one of his patients from the day before, with a pig. Ben tries to refuse the offer of the pig, but the man insists that Ben take the pig in return for his services. The man is obviously upset about parting with the pig, but won’t take it back. He leaves. Nurse Packard tells Ben that he must take the pig out of the building.
Ben leaves the hospital (hearing the chime of the time-clock behind him) and starts walking around town, receiving many compliments like, “Nice pig, Doc.” He passes by the Mayor who is hanging a banner across the main street for the upcoming Squash Festival. He tells Ben that he has another reason for him to stay in Grady – a real drum and bugle corps is coming to town for the Squash festival. Ben interrupts and tells him that he is not going to stay in Grady. The Mayor just chuckles.
The Mayor then asks Ben to dinner at his house that night where he’ll be the guest of honor. Ben looks thoughtful then asks if he can bring a date. The Mayor slyly says, “I don’t know. Can you?” Ben laughs and says that he can get any woman he wants, insinuating that he can not only get a date, but get her into bed. The Mayor bets him ten dollars that he can’t and Ben takes the bet.
Ben continues on his way and goes to Melvin’s garage. He and his multiple-language-speaking assistant are rehearsing for the Rapping Bees act for the Squash Festival Pageant. Ben tells Melvin that he can’t pay for the part for his car. Melvin just stares at him for a moment then asks Ben if that’s his pig. Ben asks Melvin if he’d like to trade, the part for the pig. Melvin’s answer is, “If you can part with the pig.” Ben agrees to the deal.
Ben’s next stop is Lou, whom he brings illegal flowers. Lou’s daughter, Emma, rushes out to see who has arrived. Ben’s a little taken aback and when Emma goes inside to put the flowers in a pitcher of water, Lou asks Ben if he wants to retreat. He says no and asks her out. She asks if he means to the Mayor’s and he asks how she knows about it. Her answer is, “Can’t poop in this town without everyone knowing what color it is.”
She asks him to stay for a cocktail. During the visit she tells Ben of her past. She had moved to New York with her husband Wayne. He dropped out of college, she got pregnant and started bar-tending, finishing her own degree. After Emma was born, Wayne left her. She divorced him and moved back to Grady. She tells him that Hank is sweet on her, and that he is stable and decent. However, she accepts Ben’s invitation to the Mayor’s dinner party saying that she can’t refuse the man who saved Jasmine the Pig’s life. It seems that Jasmine’s former owner was about to take her to the butcher. Lou also tells Ben to bring the pig over sometime because Emma loves pigs.
After his visit, Ben rushes to Melvin’s to get his pig back, but it’s too late. Melvin sold the pig to the butcher. Ben then rushes to the butcher shop and is relieved to find that Jasmine is still alive. However, the butcher doesn’t take credit so Ben trades his services to get Jasmine back, cutting meat.
The next night when Ben picks up Lou for the party, he brings Jasmine over for Emma to play with. He and Lou go to the Mayor’s house, who’s door is answered by the girl who was ‘dying to get out of’ Grady. Turns out that she’s Nancy Lee, the Mayor’s daughter. Doc Hogue and Hank, Hogue’s nephew, are also there.
During dinner, Hogue and Ben have a sparring contest and Ben wins this round.
After dinner, the drunk Doc Hogue starts quoting Walt Whitman, so the ‘young folks’ go outside, comprised of Ben, Lou, Nancy Lee and Hank. Nancy Lee continues to heavily hint at her desire to leave Grady and see the big city of Hollywood. Hank makes a statement that selling earthquake insurance in California would be a no-brainer: collect premiums and if the big one ever hit, declare bankruptcy and retire. Ben makes a comment under his breath to Lou about Hanks’ ‘decency’ and Lou tells him that no one’s perfect.
Back at the house, the Mayor comes out the door and yells to Hank to take Hogue home. Hank reluctantly leaves, telling Lou that he’ll call her at home later to make sure she got there all right, shooting an angry glance at Ben.
Lou drives Ben home, dropping him off at the cabin. After they say goodnight and she drives away, Ben takes off running to her house with a bottle of Greek wine. He gets there just as she’s walking onto her porch. He claims to have forgotten his pig, panting heavily from his run over.
Lou asks him why he’s trying so hard since he’ll be gone in a few days. He tells her that all he wants to do is talk…and get her sloppy drunk. She comments that she finds it strange that he’s using honesty and he says he finds it strange too and says that she brings it out in him. They’re about to kiss when the phone rings. She says it’s probably Hank and besides, she doesn’t want the Mayor to lose ten bucks over her. Ben grimaces as she walks into her house.
The next morning when Ben goes outside, he finds that Jasmine has been brought back to the cabin with a yellow ribbon tied around her neck. He walks into town, dressed much more casually then his previous days in town. As he walks into town, the trucks carrying the festival equipment pass by him.
It’s House Call day. As he and Lou drive to the various stops, they talk and it’s obvious that Ben is falling for her, and not just to win ten bucks. During his stops, he reads another letter about the Pakistani, gives a shot to Bubba and pulls a toy car from a child’s ear.
As they’re driving along, Lou suddenly gets angry and pulls the car over. She has seen some deer hunter’s fluorescent orange markers. Still appearing angry, she starts undoing her pants and asks Ben to join her. He looks nervous and hopeful at the same time, but she simply squats and starts to pee. She tells him that human urine will keep the deer away. So, she and Ben start urinating in the places that they find the orange markers.
After they’re done and are walking back to the ambulance, they’re once again talking about their past. Ben informs her that he is not from Hollywood, he’s just going there. He’s actually from Marionville, Indiana, population 2106 and home to the world’s largest steam engine. She’s surprised and he tells her that everyone just assumed he was from a big city. He tells her that he feels that he escaped small town life and plans never to go back.
Once in the car, Nurse Packard calls them on the CB and tells them to hurry back to the hospital because someone is having a coronary arrest. Ben asks her why she doesn’t just call Doc Hogue. She then tells them that it is Doc Hogue.
When Ben arrives at the hospital, Hogue is belligerent and tells Ben he doesn’t need any medical attention and especially not his. He passes out, flat-lining. Ben brings him back and stabilizes his condition.
Because he needs to stay with Hogue, Nurse Packard tells Ben that she has a bed made up for him. He looks angry, expecting the surgery table again, but Nurse Packard has made him up a nice cot instead.
The next day Ben visits Hogue, who is still in the hospital, but doing much better. They have another sparring match and Ben leaves, reminding Hogue that he saved him. Hogue looks thoughtful as Ben departs.
Ben walks outside the hospital to watch the Squash Festival Parade goes by. Lou is in the parade with Emma. As they walk by, Ben watches, everything suddenly going in slow motion.
Ben goes back inside and calls the Halberstrom clinic again, telling them that an emergency has occurred in Grady and that he has to postpone his interview again. The secretary informs him that he may not be able to get another appointment. Hogue overhears Ben’s phone call.
That night, the Squash Festival is in full swing. Lou is there with Emma and Hank, who proves his manliness by shooting many metal rabbits and winning stuffed animals. Lou looks a bit disturbed, probably realizing that Hank is most likely one of those deer hunters she was angry at before. Ben walks up, witnessing most of this.
Melvin finds Ben at the festival and informs him that his car is finished and ready to go, although there are several parts left over, which he gives Ben in a small box.
When Ben turns around, Nancy Lee is suddenly there, demanding that he dance with her because the glandless Wendell Barnes is after her to dance with him. He agrees and they go onto the dance floor. However, he quickly gets tired out and leaves Nancy Lee on the floor. She looks disappointed, but starts dancing again with an older man nearby.
When he steps off the floor, he turns to watch the dancing and notices Lou standing next to him. He asks her to dance and she agrees
They dance to Patsy Cline’s version of “Crazy”, and the world around them seems to melt away until they’re the only ones on the dance floor. They almost kiss, but both turn their heads.
When the song ends, the world comes crashing back in. Judge Evans tells Ben that he’s pardoning his sentence because he saved his best friend, Hogue’s, life. Hank walks up and reminds Ben that he should be leaving soon and Nancy Lee comes to Lou with Emma telling her that the child had been putting bugs in the punch
Ben starts walking back to the cabin, taking in the sights around him. He runs into the Mayor along the way who brings to Ben’s attention the smile on his face and that he believes Ben belongs in Grady. The Mayor is called away by a woman who’s barbecue fire has gotten out of control.
When Ben is away from the main festivities, Lou pulls up beside him in the ambulance and tells him to get in. She takes him to the lake and they row out to the middle to watch the fireworks above them. Some fresh water Mullet (fish) jump into the boat. Ben is a bit scared, so Lou has to throw it out, ending up on top of Ben.
They finally kiss and Ben asks Lou to go to Hollywood with him. She refuses but says she wants to spend the night with him. He kisses her again, but pulls away, saying that he can’t do it.
Lou takes him home and Ben finds Hank waiting inside the cabin. Hank looks angry and Ben assumes that Hank is there for a fight so he irrationally picks up a chair to defend himself. Hank just looks at him like he’s crazy telling him he’s only there to talk. While they talk, Ben convinces himself that he doesn’t belong there and that he should leave immediately. Ben is actually talking to himself, but Hank is obviously taking it to heart for himself.
That night, Ben breaks into Melvin’s garage and takes his car, taking off for California.
Not too far out of town, he sees someone on the side of the road flagging him down. He drives past at first, but then backs up. It’s the husband of the couple whose letters he reads. She has gone into labor. They have moved her to the back of the station wagon. However, she’s confused because this baby is hurting her more than any of her previous children.
Ben examines her and feels that the baby is a breach birth (coming out backwards). As Ben is busy delivering his first baby, we see a sleepy truck driver, who is taking the equipment from the Squash Festival away, coming down the road. The husband of the couple yells at Ben, warning him, but Ben can’t do anything about it.
The truck driver finally wakes up, but it’s too late. He crashes head on into Ben’s car, mangling the poor thing. Just as this happens, the baby is born. Ben sits back, cradling the crying baby and he starts crying himself, in joy and in sadness.
The next day we see Melvin staring down at the mess of a car. His only comment is, “I can fix that.” Inside, Ben and Hogue have a conversation about real doctoring and how Hogue feels that every baby he’s delivered is in some way his own.
Ben goes to see the couple who are in the hospital. They tell him that they have decided to name the baby Benjamina.
In the hallway, Ben runs into Lou. They talk for a bit and Ben is obviously about to tell her that he wants to stay, but she quickly interrupts him and tells him that she has decided to marry Hank. He seems surprised but doesn’t protest. She gives him a plane ticket to L.A. for which everyone in town has chipped in. He takes it as she says, “You’re like a big bright shootin’ star and you’re right Ben. You’d burn out here.” She runs out of the hospital crying. He runs after her, but stops short finding the whole town waiting outside the hospital. Lou is nowhere to be seen.
He walks down the sidewalk as people tell him good-bye. The welcoming committee bring him a sack of food because airline food is bad. Jasmine’s former owner is outside and he tells Ben that he’ll take good care of Jasmine for him. He stops in front of Nurse Packard who says, “A lot of folks around here gonna miss you. I don’t mean me, but a lot of folks.” Nancy Lee kisses him passionately, then lets go, looking a little embarrassed.
Ben looks back as he gets into the squad car that is going to take him to the airport. The Mayor looks at him and says, “Back to the interstate, Ben Stone, huh? Back to the interstate.”
As the squad car rushes him out of town, they pass by the ambulance that is parked by the side of the road. Lou is sitting inside, crying. Ben, whose eyes are closed, doesn’t see her.
Ben finally makes it to Beverly Hills and to his meeting with Dr. Halberstrom. It turns out that they’re both from the same town. Halberstrom tells Ben that this fact and that he and Ben’s father were friends didn’t get him this interview. He got the interview because Doc Hogue called him and told him that he’d be an idiot not to hire Ben. So he does, just like that.
We see Ben working with Halberstrom, giving liposuction and plastic surgery. Halberstrom gives Ben the same spiel that Ben used to give others about how the cosmetic surgery helped them afford the important reconstructive surgeries that come along. Ben no longer seems impressed by this.
At home in his penthouse apartment, Ben looks out over the balcony, wearing his Grady baseball cap and calling the Grady weather service.
When Ben goes in to work shortly after, the secretary informs him that he received a phone call from a woman who didn’t leave a message but said that he’d know who it was. She told him to meet her at a local bar. The secretary mentions that the woman had a horrible fake southern accent and assumes that she’s an actress. She looks surprised as Ben rushes out of the office.
Ben gets to the bar and sees his car parked outside.
He goes inside. Nancy Lee calls to him. His look of obvious disappointment finally convinces her that he has no interest. She looks a little disappointed but bounces back saying that she had to at least give it a shot.
Ben sits with her and asks why she’s there. Hank suddenly shows up and tells Ben that he’s in his chair. He sits next to Nancy Lee and tells Ben that he followed his own advice and left Grady for California. Ben asks about Lou and Hank scoffs, saying that he knew Lou never had any real intention of marrying him and that he had broke it off with her.
Ben looks thoughtful as we hear Nancy Lee ask, “Is that – is that a star?” Hank answers her, “No, it’s Ted Danson.”
Back in Grady, Lou is leaving the hospital for breakfast. She asks Nurse Packard if she can bring back something for her. Nurse Packard says, “Bob Barker.” Lou laughs and says she’ll see what she can do.
When she walks out, Ben is standing there with Jasmine. She hesitates, startled, then starts walking, telling him to go back to L.A. He follows and stops her, telling her he doesn’t want L.A. … he wants her. He kisses her. When they pull apart, Lou says, “You got great tonsils.” His reply is, “That ain’t all.”
They walk down the street together as the end credits begin. Ben tells her that he can go collect that ten dollars from the Mayor. Lou tells him that he lost that bet and Ben tells her that it’s her word against his. She asks if he would sully her reputation for ten dollars. His response: “Absolutely…I don’t even know what sully means.”
–Brandi M. Mills
All original text Copyright © by Brandi M. Mills