Review by David Ferguson
Greetings again from the darkness. We have learned through books, movies, and especially real life, that evil can arrive in many forms and often strikes when we are at our most vulnerable. Such is the remarkable and personal story told here by Benita Alexander. As an Emmy winning Producer for NBC News, she proclaims that she should be the last person who should fall victim in the way that she did. Whether seizing the professional opportunity to tell a fantastic story or going through the process as a form of therapy, Benita guides us through a maze of deceit that rocked the medical world, as well as her personal life.
Home video from a honeymoon suite in picturesque Santorini Greece in 2014 is how Benita initiates her confession of having fallen fast and hard for Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, a world renowned surgeon. In what can best be described as a whirlwind romantic fairy tale, Benita describes love at first sight (at a 2013 interview), Cinderella-type wedding plans featuring world leaders and the Pope, and the crushing emotional angst when it all came crashing down.
Benita utilizes her investigative reporting skills to present her story in a way that helps us understand how all of this could have happened. The doctor swept her off her feet with lavish gifts and jet-setting trips, and then charmed her friends and family – all while receiving accolades for his revolutionary work with artificial trachea transplants. The film takes us to New York City, Rome, Barcelona, London and Russia, as Benita’s high and low points are revealed.
Steven Spielberg’s movie CATCH ME IF YOU CAN told the story of charlatan Frank Abignale, and though he stole money and broke trust, Abignale’s tale possesses none of the evil or madness of Dr. Paolo Macchiarini. His were no pranks. This was no episode of “Punk’d”. This doctor’s cruelty goes far beyond. We hear words like Frankenstein and murder to describe him and his reprehensible actions that left patients dying excruciating deaths. Benita tries to balance the story with her shattered dreams and the medical scandal, but seriously, it’s difficult to muster much sympathy for someone getting caught up in the social lives of the elite. It’s the doctor’s inexcusable medical fraud that is most overwhelming to us as viewers and caring human beings.
Benita is denied the ribbon on her story package as her final phone conversation leaves her lacking an answer to “Why?” Her emotions and pain are minimized to us when she admits to being “conflicted”. This viewer found no reason for conflict, only anger and disgust. Dr. Paolo Macchiarini may have been “selling hope”, and falling for his act may be forgiven, but once the fraud is exposed, there is no room for mercy or conflict.
The documentary is scheduled to stream on Investigation Discovery starting February 14 at 8pm est. Valentine’s Day is either the best or worst day for this airing, depending on your perspective.
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