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Dr. T keeps cast in check
Dr. T and the Women
Starring: Richard Gere, Helen Hunt, Farrah Fawcett
Directed by: Robert Altman
By Kyle Wasko
Dr. T and the Women tells the story of Dr. Sullivan Travers (Richard Gere), a Dallas-area gynecologist who loves women.
He's not a sexual predator, but rather a caring man who is truly tender with the women in his life. Throughout the film, Dr. T must deal with a variety of situations, including some erratic behaviour by his wife, a hectic practice and his daughter's upcoming wedding.
Richard Gere delivers a competent performance as Dr. T. He shines in a number of heart-breaking scenes with his mentally ill wife and his menopausal patients. Sadly, these moments are few and far between, leaving Gere spending the rest of the movie in a kind of subdued haze.
Helen Hunt is strong as Bree, a pro golfer and potential love interest for the doctor. In an interesting role-reversal, she seduces Dr. T by luring him to her bedroom with a bottle of wine. Tara Reid, playing the part of Travers' daughter, has genuine screen presence and her work at the Conspiracy Museum provides the majority of the film's comic relief.
Farrah Fawcett is captivating as Kate, the mentally disturbed wife. If her appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman is any indication, she was clearly destined to play this role.
Director Robert Altman is known for providing glimpses into people's lives, as opposed to giving the full story. Unfortunately, the result is too often a severe underdevelopment of characters. Laura Dern, who plays Dr. T's sister Peggy, is reduced to a stumbling alcoholic housewife. Although it is humorous to see her drink from a wine glass while wearing oven mitts, she deserves better.
Despite an engrossing performance in Almost Famous, Kate Hudson, who stars as the doctor's other soon-to-be-married daughter, is extremely vapid, constantly chatting on an annoying cell phone. Even Helen Hunt's Bree lacks definition, so much so the viewer must deduce that Dr. T's attraction to her is based solely on her proficient golfing abilities.
The crux of the film's problem is that his patients, the group of women Dr. T professes to love, prove to be thoroughly unlovable. The waiting room, which consists of a number of real-life Dallas women, gives the viewer a glimpse at extremely high levels of arrogance and condescension.
Another major problem is despite being billed as a comedy, Dr. T and the Women is not terribly funny. The film provides the occasional chuckle, but in terms of strong, laugh-out-loud moments, there are only three over the course of the film's two hours. For a film with such a talented cast, it is extremely disappointing.
Robert Altman's films usually contain a broad social message. M*A*S*H was about using humour to cope with the madness of war, while The Player was a biting Hollywood satire. Altman decided to take a different route with Dr. T, choosing instead to portray a slice of life in modern America.
Unfortunately, the slice of life Altman selected turned out to be a bore.