Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Robert Altman
Stars: Richard Gere, Helen Hunt, Farrah Fawcett, Kate Hudson, Liv Tyler, Shelley Long, Laura Dern, Tara Reid, Lee Grant, Janine Turner, Robert Hays, Matt Malloy
Running time: 122 minutes.
Maverick septuagenarian director Robert Altman shows few signs of slowing down despite his age, or his relative lack of recent box office success. His latest film is a sprawling and somewhat uneven, incoherent comedy about a gynaecologist facing his own share of woman problems.
Dr Sullivan Travis (Richard Gere), affectionately known by all as “Dr T”, is a Dallas gynaecologist with a successful practice. His years of dealing with neurotic women and their problems leads the good doctor to mistakenly believe that he knows what women want. But during the lead up to the wedding of his oldest daughter (Kate Hudson), his life and beliefs begin to crumble, and his illusions are stripped away.
His mentally fragile wife (Farrah Fawcett) suffers a nervous breakdown and is institutionalised. His daughter invites a former college roommate and close friend (Liv Tyler) to be her maid of honour at the wedding. Meanwhile his conspiracy theorist younger daughter (Tara Reid) is involved in trying to expose government cover-ups of everything from the Kennedy assassination onwards. His alcoholic sister in law (Laura Dern) and her three daughters have also moved into his house for the duration. Meanwhile, his dizzy secretary (Shelley Long) has a crush on Dr T, although he is oblivious to her feelings.
Dr T’s women are all of a single type – blonde and beautiful, and deeply troubled. The only seemingly normal woman amongst the bunch is Bree (the very busy Helen Hunt), the new assistant pro at the local country club, who resists a more permanent relationship with the handsome doctor.
Although the film follows a more intimate canvas than Altman’s usual sprawling ensemble pieces, Dr T And The Women nonetheless still explores many of his familiar themes. There are also some moments in this frenetic scenario that remind audiences of Altman’s earlier, sprawling comedy A Wedding, in which family secrets were revealed and old skeletons rattled during the lead up to a spectacular wedding. As with many of Altman’s more recent films, the whole thing culminates in a fierce storm that offers both redemption and renewal.
Despite having been written by a woman, regular Altman collaborator Anne Rapp, Dr T And The Women paints a rather unflattering and stereotyped picture of the women in Dr T’s life – most of them are neurotic, irrational, pampered and pitifully insecure individuals. The all-star female cast do what they can with their unflattering stereotyped roles, but ultimately their best endeavours succumb to the overtly misogynistic nature of the material. Gere brings a nice, laid back quality to his performance that lends the material some sense of style and credibility.
Dr T is a relatively light weight piece of fluff, and while it may not be vintage Altman, it does have enough to entertain and divert the easily pleased.