Dr. T and the Women

Dr. Sully Travis has a big problem. Everywhere he goes, he sees women, and they all depend on him for something. Travis (Richard Gere, Autumn in New York, Runaway Bride), or Dr. T, is a successful gynecologist in Dallas. His wife Kate (Farrah Fawcett, The Apostle, The Flunky) has a disease where she is slowly regressing to her childhood. His daughter DeeDee is engaged and her sister Connie (Tara Reid, American Pie, Cruel Intentions) is jealous. Kate's sister Peggy (Laura Dern, October Sky, Daddy and Them) moved in with Travis, brining along her three young daughters. At work, his nurse Carolyn (Shelley Long, The Adventures of Ragtime, A Very Brady Sequel) has a crush on him, and his patients mob his office because they all admire his abilities.

If it sounds like there is too much going on, that is because that is director Robert Altman's point. Altman, revered for his efforts in Nashville, The Player, M*A*S*H, and other films is, according to many critics, slowly losing his touch. Still, a bad Altman film is better than most other films made, right? In Dr. T and the Women, not quite. His trademark of multiple stories and characters is still there. As is his wry sense of humor. Altman mainstay Lyle Lovett (Cookie's Fortune, Ready To Wear) is also here again, but this time it's behind the camera, composing the music. One of Altman's best qualities is his use of long, single takes. He uses one camera that slowly pans across the set while characters carry on multiple conversations at the same time. It is up to the viewer to decide which one to attempt to follow. This sensory overload usually manages to coalesce into something coherent, and usually is worth the wait.

Travis' problem is that he everywhere he goes, he has to deal with an endless stream of women. His only respite is going on short hunting trips with his male friends. So when he meets Bree (Helen Hunt, Pay it Forward, Castaway), he revels in her differentness. She teaches golf and the local club, and essentially has no use for him. She is independent, strong-willed, and completely self-sufficient. In other words, she is the polar opposite of every woman Travis knows. With Kate incapacitated, Travis begins a slow relationship with Bree, with his life continually butting in in the meanwhile. This is the second collaboration between Altman and screenwriter Anne Rapp (Cookie's Fortune was the first). They work well together. Rapp knows Altman's style and sense of humor, it's just that here, it doesn't really work. The story here has no real place to go, and it shows in the Magnolia-esque ending.

The main problem with a film with so many principal characters is dealing with fleshing each person out. The only complex people are Bree and Travis, mainly because they have the lion's share of screen time. Fawcett's character is by far the most interesting, but she disappears partway into the movie. On the other hand, the character of Kate does not really serve any purpose. The introduction of Bree changes Travis. Her independence shows Travis just how harried his life is. As Dr. T and the Women progresses, Gere looks and sounds increasingly tired. For good reason too. The legions of women nag at him continuously, until everyone watching also tires of this.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
2 hours, 2 minutes, Rated R for graphic nudity and some sexuality.

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