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A waste of acting talent
on February 13, 2001
Jackson Pollack became famous in abstract art for laying a canvas on the floor and splashing, dripping and hurling paint on it. After seeing this film, one might conclude that Robert Altman is to film as Jackson Pollack is to art. The question is whether this is genius or just a compulsive eccentric flinging stuff into the frame. My vote goes to the latter.
The story is a very scattered, almost incoherent stream of foolishness that surrounds the life of Dr. Sullivan Travis (Richard Gere). Dr. T is a prominent gynecologist in Dallas Texas and his socialite patients are among the looniest on the planet. His wife (Farrah Fawcett) went nuts because he loved her too much and treated her too well. His daughter (Kate Hudson) is getting married and her lesbian lover (Liv Tyler) is her maid of honor. His long time nurse (Shelley Long) is in love with him and along with his golf pro (Helen Hunt), wants to seduce him. To top it all off his ditzy sister in law (Laura Dern) is living in his house with her three daughters.
The script has comic possibilities, but Altman's bizarre presentation dissipates it into a chaotic din. Most every scene is dominated by the constant yakity-yak of ten women tittering and chattering at once. Clearly, Altman is attempting to lampoon Texas society with his characterizations, but his free-for-all style turns it into amateurish trash of sitcomesque proportion.
This film is extremely unflattering to women. Almost all the women are portrayed as insane over-emotional, irrational, stupid, or hypochondria ridden flakes. The only woman close to normal is Bree (Helen Hunt), and she is manipulative and self absorbed. Dr. T, in contrast is levelheaded, rationale, reasonable, sensitive and wonderful. His shooting pals are also seen as pretty normal guys, if not particularly bright.
A treasure trove of acting talent is squandered in the cacophony. Richard Gere plays a very lovable character, which is a novelty for him. He is all sensitivity and vulnerability here without a hint of his normal macho impassiveness. Helen Hunt gives another fine performance as the self-centered golf pro who seems to be Dr. T's refuge from all the crazy women that surround him, but is really using him for her own hedonistic ends. Farrah Fawcett also gives a terrific rendition of a woman who has taken leave of her wits. In truth, the entire all-star ensemble is fantastic. However, great performances with a bad script and a weird director add up to nothing more than so much debris chucked into the frame.
I rated this film a 3/10. The whole is much less than the sum of the parts. For a film with this many bankable stars to gross only $13.0 million at the box office ($5 million of that in week one) is a clear indication of how poor it is. If you are lucky enough not to have seen it yet, do yourself a favor and miss it.