DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
DR. T AND THE WOMEN (director: Robert Altman; screenwriter: Anne Rapp; cinematographer: Jan Kiesser; editor: Geraldine Peroni; cast: Richard Gere (Dr. T), Helen Hunt (Bree), Farrah Fawcett (Kate), Laura Dern (Peggy), Shelley Long (Carolyn), Tara Reid (Connie), Kate Hudson (Dee Dee), Liv Tyler (Marilyn), Robert Hays (Harlan), Matt Malloy (Bill), Andy Richter (Eli), Lee Grant (Dr. Harper), Janine Turner (Dorothy), Gail Cronauer (Patient); Runtime: 121; Artisan Entertainment; 2000)

 
"It was a sweet film with some bizarre touches in its satire of the bourgeois."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An amusingly rich and stimulating tale about a successful Dallas-based gynecologist, Dr. T (Gere), who thinks he understands women better than anyone else in town. He has been faithful despite all the temptations around him to his gorgeous wife Kate (Farrah Fawcett). They have two lovely, independent-minded, college-aged daughters, Dee Dee (Kate Hudson) and Connie (Tara Reid), and he has all the family love and material comforts he desires, living an upper-class bourgeois lifestyle. The good doctor will get his needed come-uppance before the film ends. Thinking he knows so much about women, all the ideals and fantasies he builds around them will come crashing down upon him. Appropriately enough this is a film set in the fall, and the mood and the color of the film reflects that time of year in all its beauty.

The film moves at its own gracefully slow speed. The charming, handsome, popular doctor, is as smooth in his patient conversations as he is when he examines a woman's insides with his speculum. His waiting room is a maddening cluster of idle chatter and angst from all the female patients waiting to be examined by him. Even his daffy, loyal office manager Carolyn (Long), vies for his undivided attention among all the other woman as she has a long-standing crush on him.

As an added touch to feminine sensitivity, Altman has examining rooms named after local female celebrities  —  Belle Starr, Phyllis George and Gov. Ann Richards.

The gynecologist's philosophical musings about his knowledge of women is given freely to his bird hunting buddies, as he pontificates "Women are by nature sacred and should be treated as saints."

But Sully's wife has a psychological breakdown as she dances in the upscale mall water display fountain while nude and is sent by him to a private mental hospital rest home, to be treated by Dr. Harper (Lee Grant). She is baffled by her problem but surmises it's a rare mythological complex that she suffers from that affects only upper-class women who are loved too much and come to reject this love, retreating into a childlike state.

Into Sully's life comes an attractive new golf pro teacher at his country club, Bree Davis (Hunt), and the two soon start an affair, with the doctor smugly telling her that every woman is unique. Bree concurs that if anyone would know, it's him. She is seen as being different from the other women in his life: she's an athlete,a casual dresser wearing chinos and is not impressed by Sully's acts of gentlemanly chivalry. Bree has made up her mind that she wants to have sex with him and he doesn't have to play any games to have her. But the most important difference is that she's a take charge woman, and this is really a turn on to the already smitten Dr. T.

With his wife's rejection of him, Sully's life begins to dramatically change. His recently divorced alcoholic sister-in-law, dressed ostentatiously in feathery outfits, Peggy (Laura Dern), has come to stay with him bringing along her three toddler daughters. Sully's conspiracy-buff believing daughter Connie, who is a tour guide, shocks him by telling him that his Dallas Cowboy cheerleader daughter Dee Dee, who will shortly be getting married, had a lesbian affair with the maid of honor Marilyn (Tyler); and, that she shouldn't be getting married because she's still in love with Marilyn.

At last, after many recent bombs, Gere has found a film that goes hand in hand with his laconic style and intelligent grace and good looks. Gere plays a sympathetic character who seems very comfortable being around so many women, and comes across as a good doctor and a generous person who is trying his best to be the Man around a sea of women. There doesn't seem to be much tragedy here, it seems that script writer Anne Rapp and the 75-year-old Altman are only gently chiding the doctor for thinking he can ever understand women, and the film plays more like a big joke on him than anything else. What unravels for him are all things he can easily rebound from. As the credits roll by, with the song "Ain't It Something The Way Things Go" being played.  It was a sweet film with some bizarre touches in its satire of the bourgeois.

REVIEWED ON 2/21/2001     GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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