Dr. T and the Women (2000) / Drama-Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for graphic nudity and some sexuality
Running Time: 122 min.
Cast: Richard Gere, Helen Hunt, Farrah Fawcett, Laura Dern, Shelley Long
Director: Robert Altman
Screenplay: Anne Rapp
Review published October 28, 2000
One of the sad aspects of watching a once great director strive to get back to his position of glory is in seeing him aiming for greatness even when the material clearly won't allow him to. It's ironic that such an act can make what could have been a good, entertaining film turn into an awful one with just one overblown ending. We saw Brian De Palma do this earlier this year with Mission to Mars, but he's not the only one. Add Robert Altman (Cookie's Fortune, The Gingerbread Man) to the list of director's making bad films because of his effort to try to be great again.
Richard Gere (Autumn in New York, Runaway Bride) plays Dallas gynecologist Sullivan Travis, or Dr. T as he is known by everyone around him. His clients include some of the wealthiest and most eccentric women in Texas, and while they all throw themselves at his feet, he has remained loyal to his lovely wife, bestowing her with everything her heart could wish for. It seems he has bestowed too much, as his wife has began to crack up, reverting into a childlike state due to a mental illness known as a Hestia complex. As goes Dr. T's wife, so goes Dr. T's life, where everything seems to go wrong even when it looks like it might finally go right again. His daughters, employees, and every other person in his life (save his hunting buddies) comprise of women, and Dr. T's ladies begin to drive him crazy.
Altman's skill as a director shows, setting up amiable scenes that are funny and well-played by his cast of likeable actors. The cinematography and use of soundtrack by Lyle Lovett punctuate each scene with finesse only a master director could deliver. Where Altman succeeds in technique, he fails in execution, unable to realize that he has a script so unfocused that it plays more like a sitcom and so light that it doesn't set-up for the "blow you away" pay off that Altman would like to have been able to deliver. The storyline jumps from place to place, never really seeming to say anything of substance except to let you know Dr. T's life is falling apart due to the women around him.
The film is still enjoyable at times, and the eccentric characters have an appeal which keeps your interest, but Altman tries to go from first gear to fifth in one move for his finale, and anyone who has ever driven knows that going from first to fifth is a sure way to go nowhere fast. Altman may have all of the tools of one of Hollywood's great directors but a film like Dr. T shows that he may need to go back to basics on how to actually use them.
©2000 Vince Leo