Doc Hollywood (1991) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A young doctor on his way across the country to a job interview crashes his car in a small town and is sentenced to work for several days at the town hospital.

  • Benjamin Stone is a young doctor driving to L.A., where he is interviewing for a high-paying job as a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills. He gets off the highway to avoid a traffic jam, but gets lost and ends up crashing into a fence in the small town of Grady. He is sentenced to 32 hours of community service at the local hospital. All he wants is to serve the sentence, get his car fixed and get moving, but gradually the locals become attached to the new doctor, and he falls for the pretty ambulance driver, Lou. Will he leave?


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Dr. Benjamin Stone (Michael J. Fox) is a hotshot young surgeon who longs to leave the drudgery of a Washington, D.C. emergency room and finally leaps at his chance at more money (for repaying his med school debts) and less death as a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills. On his last day, Ben's relationship with his co-workers is presumed to be anything but a warm one. None of his colleagues will join him for a drink, and a cake in his honor has an iced portion of the phrase "Good riddance, asshole" sliced out.

    Ben's cross-country drive in a 1956 Porsche 356 Speedster to become a Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon is interrupted when he crashes in the rural redneck hamlet of Grady, South Carolina. The crash is through the hand-made fence of local Judge Evans (Roberts Blossom). The superficial Ben offers to pay for the fence, so he can be on his way, but the Judge isn't interested, and he sentences him to 16 hours of community service at a nearby hospital. Ben gets angry, and the stern judge increases his community service to 32 hours.

    The local mechanic Melvin (Mel Winkler) tells Ben that he'll have his car fixed by the time he leaves, and Ben goes to report to the hospital, where the stiff Nurse Packer (Eyde Byrde) humbles him by ordering him to clock in and out, as would a factory worker and threatens to report him to the judge should he miss one day.

    Though upset, Ben quickly makes friends with Mayor Nick Nicholson (David Ogden Stiers), who is desperate to keep him in town because he knows it won't be long before their current doctor, Aurelius Hogue (Barnard Hughes) retires. He invites him to stay overnight at his lakeside lodge,where the town's café proprietor/waitress (Frances Sternhagen), and her friends, make Ben feel welcome with food and alcohol. After a night of drinking, Ben wakes up feeling rough, and goes outside to the lake, where he sees a naked woman, Vialula "Lou" (Julie Warner) emerge from the water. She gets dressed and leaves,and it isn't long before he discovers that she's the town's tomboyish ambulance driver.

    Ben soon finds his clinic work much more laid-back than the emergency room. His are simple cases for the redneck locals which include spots before the eyes (from an elderly woman not cleaning her glasses), fishing hook impaling, and even reading mail for a young hillbilly illiterate couple. But the experience also humbles Ben when he mistreats a case of mitral valve regurgitation leading to late cyanosis of a young boy. Hogue orders Ben to give the boy a Coca-Cola. Dismissing Hogue's treatment as quackery, Ben calls for a helicopter to transport the boy to another facility in Athens, Georgia, to see a heart specialist. But when the report comes back, Ben is embarrassed when he and Hogue learn that the boy has this chest condition because he had chewed (and accidentally swallowed) some of his father's tobacco and Hogue explains that the carbonic acid component of the soda would relieve his stomachache.

    The next day at the café, Ben meets the Mayor's flirty daughter, Nancy Lee (Bridget Fonda) who immediately has a crush on him, but he's much more interested in getting to know Lou. The Mayor doesn't reckon he's got much chance with her,but Ben makes him a $10 bet that he'll score with her before he leaves town. He arrives at Lou's place with flowers,and discovers that she's also a single mother to a four-year old girl called Emma, the product of a relationship she had with an ex-boyfriend,while living in New York. He invites Lou to have dinner with him at The Mayor's house, and he discovers that she is also the object of affection for Hank Gordon (Woody Harrelson), the local insurance salesman,and town's "golden boy". Later that night, Ben tries his best to make a move on Lou, but she refuses his advances, and tells him she knows about the bet with the Mayor.

    During the routine house calls, Ben and Lou's bond grows, and he confides in her that he grew up in a small town in rural Indiana, where his parents lived and died in a car accident when he was only 14. Ben can't see himself confined to any small town which reminds him of the memory of his parents which he chooses to push himself with work in order not to dwell in the past. During this time, Hogue also starts to respect Ben when Ben saves his life after he suffers a heart attack.

    At the town's annual festival, Ben and Lou have a slow dance, and almost share a passionate kiss, when Judge Evans interrupts, and tells Ben that because he's saved Hogue's life, he is now pardoned from community service. With his car fixed and ready to go, Lou wants to spend the night with him before he leaves. But Ben realizes he can't go through with it because he's fallen for her and wants her to be more than just a one night stand.

    Ben arrives at the lakeside lodge and finds Hank waiting for him. Ben expects a fight, but Hank explains that though he can't give Lou what Ben can, he's still a better man for her. After the two men talk, Ben comes to realize he's not selfless enough for a life with Lou and plans to not see her anymore. Not wanting to wait until the morning to leave, he breaks into the garage to get his car and drives out of town. But just as he is leaving, he sees a one of his patients who has gone into labor. He pulls over,and helps deliver the baby. However,as the woman is giving birth, Ben's car is wrecked when a truck driver smashes into it.

    The next morning, Lou tells Ben that she plans to marry Hank and that the town have paid for a plane ticket for him to leave right away. Secretly, she doesn't want Hank but she thinks Ben doesn't want to settle for the rural life. He reluctantly says goodbye to the locals, and leaves.

    In California, Ben's new boss Dr. Halberstrom (George Hamilton) hires him at the interview, thanks to an unexpected phone call recommending him from Dr. Hogue. Ben finally has his high-paying dream job on the west coast that he always wanted. But over the next several weeks, Ben quickly tires of the superficiality of Beverly Hills and of the patients.

    One day, Ben is surprised by the appearance of Nancy Lee and Hank, who have fled Grady to come to California and they are now a couple. Hank tells Ben he took his own advice to "do what a man's gotta do." Ben, seeing an opportunity at true happiness, returns to Grady, hoping to patch things up with Lou, who takes him back.

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