Monday, February 11, 2013

Dr. T and the Women

Directed by Robert Altman and written by Anne Rapp, Dr. T and the Women is the story about the life of a Texan gynecologist whose life begins to fall apart after his wife’s mental breakdown as he finds himself seeking companionship in the form of a golf instructor in the wake of his daughter’s upcoming wedding. The film is an exploration into the life of a man and the women he’s surrounded by as he tries to deal with the changes in his life. Starring Richard Gere, Helen Hunt, Farrah Fawcett, Laura Dern, Shelley Long, Kate Hudson, Tara Reid, Liv Tyler, and Andy Richter. Dr. T and the Women is a witty yet sensational comedy from Robert Altman.

The film is about the tumultuous life of a renowned Texan gynecologist who is beloved by the rich women of the state as things around him starts to fall apart. His wife has a mental breakdown that has her regressing to a childlike state while his sister-in-law has moved in to his house as they’re all getting ready for the wedding of his eldest daughter who is carrying a secret of her own. Meanwhile, a former golf pro has arrived into his golf club as he forges a relationship with her to escape from his chaotic life until some big news about his daughter and his wife come ahead as well as an overloaded schedule that finally culminates into his daughter’s wedding. For this man known as Dr. Sullivan Travis aka Dr. T (Richard Gere), it’s a world that he lives in surrounded by all of these women where he does find time to hang out with the guys. Yet, he remains devoted to the women in his life no matter how crazy they are.

Anne Rapp’s screenplay is quite loose in its premise though it does take time to explore the other characters such as the eldest daughter Dee Dee (Kate Hudson) and her younger sister Connie (Tara Reid) where the latter is a conspiracy theorist. Along with his loopy sister-in-law Peggy (Laura Dern) and his wife Kate (Farrah Fawcett), the film explores this unique family life that Dr. T has where he does love them no matter how screwed up they are. Yet, Kate’s mental breakdown and regression into a childlike state has the family, with the exception of Connie, going into all sorts of trouble where Peggy drinks and stumbles into situations while Dee Dee is being secretive underneath her posh exterior as it concerns her maid of honor Marilyn (Liv Tyler). For Dr. T, all of these revelations and troubles has him going to this former golf pro in Bree (Helen Hunt) who offers him an escape from his troubles while she becomes aware of the crazy world he live in.

Robert Altman’s direction is fascinating for the way he explores the life of this gynecologist who lives in Dallas, Texas. Particularly in a posh setting where many of Dr. T’s clients are these rich women who adore him and some try to flirt with him. Still, there is that element of chaos in Altman’s direction in the way he presents the waiting room where there’s a lot of women chattering or talking to the reception for an appointment or scenes in the mall where Kate would have her breakdown. While a lot of the framing is straightforward as Altman shoots on location in Dallas and other nearby locations. The film’s climax near the end that involves something that Connie feared but it would be in a bigger context that relates to the chaos that Dr. T had been through. While the presentation of that scene is imperfect, it does make sense of what Altman was trying to say. Overall, Altman creates a delightful yet whirlwind film that explores the world of a doctor and the women in his life.

Cinematographer Jan Kiesser does excellent work with the film‘s very colorful cinematography to capture the beauty of Dallas in its exteriors as well as some of the scenes in the film‘s interior settings. Editor Geraldine Peroni does wonderful work with the editing to capture the chaos in the waiting room as well as some of the film‘s comical moments like Kate‘s breakdown in the mall. Production designer Stephen Altman, with set decorator Chris L. Spellman and art director John Bucklin, does nice work with the look of Dr. T‘s office and his waiting room as well as Bree‘s apartment and the home that Dr. T lives in.

Costume designer Dona Granata does terrific work with the costumes to display the world of posh Texas without any cowboy gear as well as the camouflage clothes that Dr. T and his male friends wear on their hunting trips. Visual effects supervisor Charles Gibson does some good work with the film‘s lone visual effects sequence although it doesn‘t look realistic. Sound editor Frederick Howard does some fine work with the sound to capture the chaos of the waiting room with its overlapping dialogue as well as the scenes involving the rain. The film’s music by Lyle Lovett is amazing as it is mostly a playful take on country with bits of jazz and blues to complement the world that is Texas.

The casting by Pam Dixon is phenomenal for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small roles from Robert Hays, Matt Malloy, and Andy Richter as Dr. T’s hunting buddies, Lee Grant as Kate’s examiner Dr. Harper, and Janine Turner as a flirtatious patient who keeps insisting that there’s something wrong with her. Tara Reid is pretty good as the conspiracy-obsessed Connie who is suspicious about her sister’s possible secret while Kate Hudson is OK in a somewhat underwritten role as the older sister Dee Dee who aspires to be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader while carrying a secret as she’s set to get married. Liv Tyler is terrific as Dee Dee’s friend Marilyn who also knows about Dee Dee’s secret as her meeting with Dr. T ends up being very awkward. Laura Dern is very funny as Dr. T’s sister-in-law Peggy who always stumble around certain things as she definitely has a drinking problem.

Shelley Long is wonderful as Dr. T’s loyal assistant Carolyn who helps him deal with the chaos while keeping a secret of her own towards that revolves around Dr. T. Farrah Fawcett is superb as the troubled Kate who regresses into a childlike state where Fawcett brings a lovely sense of humor to her role. Helen Hunt is excellent as Bree Davis who befriends Dr. T as she represents the one woman whose life isn’t filled with lots of complications as she sympathizes with Dr. T. Finally, there’s Richard Gere in a marvelous performance as Dr. T as he is this very kind man that finds his life falling apart as he is desperate to hold on to whatever he has left only to nearly fall prey to the chaos of his life.

Dr. T and the Women is a remarkable film from Robert Altman that features a superb leading performance from Richard Gere. The film is an interesting view into the life of a man who surrounds himself with the women in his life while dealing with all of the turmoil that occurs as things start to fall apart around him. It’s also a film that showcases the world of women and they seek the help from a man in order to help them find themselves. In the end, Dr. T and the Women is an extraordinary film from Robert Altman.

Robert Altman Films: (The Delinquents) - (The James Dean Story) - Countdown (1968 film) - (That Cold Day in the Park) - M.A.S.H. - Brewster McCloud - McCabe & Mrs. Miller - (Images) - The Long Goodbye - Thieves Like Us - California Split - Nashville - Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson - 3 Women - (A Wedding) - (Quintet) - (A Perfect Couple (HealtH) - Popeye - (Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean) - (Streamers) - (Secret Honor) - (O.C. and Stiggs) - Fool for Love - (Beyond Therapy) - (Aria-Les Boreades) - (Tanner ‘88) - (Vincent & Theo) - The Player - Short Cuts - Pret-a-Porter - (Kansas City) - (The Gingerbread Man) - Cookie‘s Fortune - Gosford Park - The Company (2003 film) - (Tanner on Tanner) - A Prairie Home Companion

© thevoid99 2013


Chip Lary said...

Wow, I'm afraid I had an opposite reaction. I did a blind buy on this one because of who was in it, and did I ever regret spending money on it - and this was a blind buy for a couple bucks from a rental store that was closing.

I think I expected too much from it because of the cast.

thevoid99 said...

Well, just be glad you didn't spend more.

I'm aware that people had mixed feelings on this film as some accused it of being misogynistic (which I really don't get). Yet, I enjoyed it because it was kind of a mess.