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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.
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VINE VOICEon March 25, 2002
This is an excellent Altman movie. Though there is the usual large cast you expect from an Altman movie this one is unique in that despite all the periphery confusion it brings an ever increasing focus on just one character, Dr. T himself. Richard Gere has never been one of my favorite actors but he gives an impeccable and likable performance as an always generous and compassionate gynecologist. His wife played by Farrah Fawcett has a breakdown(and gets naked in a fountain) at the mall early on and spends the entire movie institutionalized. His daughters are played by Tara Reid and Kate Hudson, ones a JFK conspiracy nut and the other a lesbian cheerleader(her lover played by Liv Tyler). Dr. T's work life is equally confusing as he treats one hypochondriac after another. Excellent small part by patient Janine Turner. While his wife is in getting treatment he begins an affair with independent golf pro Helen Hunt. In synopsis the movie sounds wacky and it is but it is also a very solid drama. The movie has a backbone and that is Gere. As his perfect life falls away before him he becomes more and more exposed, vulnerable. Lyle Lovetts soundtrack provides a sober running commentary on one man losing control of his life and how he deals with that. An ending that will blow you away....highly recommended. This is a very confident Altman being experimental in a very interesting way, he's full of insight again. Reminds me of some of his seventies work like 1978's The Wedding, but with firmer directorial control.
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on February 21, 2001
To be frank, I watched the movie because of the talent behind it. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with virtually every aspect of this movie.
There are times when the action bounces back and forth between two sets of characters and situations (a la Fifth Element) but there is little or no connection between the two situations, which leaves me dizzy and confused instead of entertained or stimulated.
There is extreme character development, such as the numerous times we see Peggy (Laura Dern) slipping off to take a nip from her flask or pouring herself a drink. The idea of her alocholism is pounded into my conscious to the point of annoying me, and then I found that the fact that she has a substance abuse problem has nothing to do with the plot, the character interaction or anything else for that matter. Why did Robert Altman make such a big deal of it then? Filler?
The obsession with the Kennedy family for Connie (Tara Reid's character) is another case where a good amount of time is spent in trying to show us this side of the character and it is never followed up with any tangible purpose later in the movie. Strangely enough, she is probably one of the more 'normal' women in the picture.
All of this would have lead to a mediocre movie but the ending really killed it for me. I have no idea what the ending is supposed to mean. In fact, it reinforces the idea that the whole plot was derived by the writers completing several Mad Libs pages and then editing them into a screenplay. There is really no other explanation for why so many aspects of the movie seem to be so random (or haphazard at best).
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on May 9, 2001
I couldn't believe how unattractive every character was, how vapid the storyline, and how much I couldn't bring myself to care about ANY of these repulsive people. Altman chose to highlight the ugliest side of human nature relentlessly over 2 hours. Spare yourself the agony!
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on March 20, 2001
It's amazing to me that this cast of noted actors and actresses got together to make a movie with no plot, no story, no ending, and no point. I'd rather go the doctor than watch this crap! The only upside were the scenes with Shelly Long and those could only carry about 20 minutes of this two hour waste. I have to believe that this film was left on the cutting room floor because no one would think this entertainment -- would they?
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on December 11, 2000
Robert Altman's latest ensemble piece opens with a scene that basically fills in the background from which the rest of the film will spring. In a gynecologist's office in Dallas, his upscale clients are fighting tooth and nail to get into his stirrups. The roving camera shows us high society Southern belles in sequined suits and extravagant hats ready to claw the eyes out of each other's heads to get the undivided attention of his staff. That din of shrieking women is Dr. T.'s life.
Richard Gere plays Dr. Sullivan "Sully" Travis, a man with a few too many problems. His wife (Farah Fawcett) has succumbed to a condition called the Hestia Complex that leaves her in a mental hospital after a nude frolic in a shopping mall fountain. His two daughters Connie (Tara Reid) and Dee Dee (Kate Hudson) are hashing out the details of the latter's upcoming wedding. Connie is flunking out of Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders training camp. Dee Dee's interests might lie elsewhere. His sister-in-law Peggy (Laura Dern) is divorcing her husband and has, with three matching kids, moved into his home. His office manager Carolyn (Shelley Long) thinks she may have just what the ole doc needs. And the new golf instructor in town (Helen Hunt) is just too interesting to keep out of his mind for more then 10 minutes. All in a day's work.
Of course Altman is known for these sort of huge casts and can often handle them very well indeed (MASH, Short Cuts, etc), but lately he hasn't come up with a big winner. Last year's Cookie's Fortune is probably his best of late and, while very watchable, Dr. T. pales in comparison to even that modest success. Both films are set in the South and feature a lot of local flavor. Being a native Dallasite myself, I don't think you can make a film based here without mentioning Tom Landry - it's probably a local ordinance. Altman also definitively identifies Dallas' alpha male culture with golf, patio grills, hunting, football and, of course, women.
I'd have to agree with Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly when he says, "This may be the last place in America where feminism and chivalry could still be duking it out." I always open the door for a woman (and hold it for any more that may be coming). I wouldn't cuss in casual conversation with a woman I didn't know, although I probably would with a man. And I don't personally like women who drink or have tattoos either. I say all this to give you an indication of the way most men are raised in Texas and Altman has captured that perfectly.
Sully is a guy who just wants his life to settle down and let him catch a breath. Mainly that means his daughters and sister-in-law, a blonde trio that harries him with every demand and never manages a thought outside their own little social circle. While provocative, the women that torture him never really become full fledged characters. Even Liv Tyler who shows up as the bridesmaid from Houston has only a few words in the entire film, none of which give us a hint as to who she is. The one person who might save him (and the film) is Helen Hunt but her role as the one rock steady female in the story is cut short in the effort to include so many of the others.
While Gere does an admirable job as the decent, honest and confused man, Altman just doesn't give us enough time to get to know these folks. He's sure to do better in the future (as he has in the past), but at least Dr. T.
is an interesting failure. The final scene seems like a return nod to P.T. Anderson's Magnolia, which was fun to see but probably my favorite part was Laura Dern's three little girls. All dressed alike and on their little leashes. It reminds me of two kids I met while in high school. Their knucklehead parents actually named the twin boy and girl "Cotton" and "Candy". This, dear friends, can only happen in Texas.
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on March 5, 2002
I wish I could get my money back. I also wish I could get back the nearly two hours of my life wasted watching this piece of garbage.
This is easily one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Don't get suckered in by the talented cast and glowing "critical" reviews. Yes, the cast is talented, but that talent is wasted in this worthless excuse for a movie.
It's boring--plain and simple. And why any women would like it is beyond me after the way the movie portrays women. It didn't redeem itself at the ending either--it was as totally ridiculous as the rest of the movie. The low point of the whole movie was the role assigned to Frrah Fawcett. It was especially painful to watch her totally absurd role.
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on August 2, 2001
First of all, I would like to state that this movie contains a terrific cast. That's the good side. Everything else is downhill.
Roger Ebert, as well as other critics, gave this movie good reviews. Ole Rog' gave it 3 stars. Personally, I find it difficult to belief that an intelligent movie critic like Roger would rate this so highly. Maybe "Payolla" isn't limited to just the music industry.
While I watched this dreck, I couldn't help but think to myself -- "My God! It's going to take 5 hours to tie together all of these loose ends." No dialog is spared in the attempt to piece everything together. I watched in total disbelief at how bad everything (script/plot/acting) was in this movie. When I started to think that the movie couldn't get any worse, it did. Oh...but you MUST rent it just to witness one of the most bizarre and disgusting endings in movie history. Unbelievable!
Quite frankly, it's too bad that MST3K never riffed on this one. It would have helped tremendously.
If you want to know more about the plot, please read the other reviews as I have (with the help of a psychiatrist) tried to come to terms and block out all memory of this movie.
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on February 20, 2001
this is a terrible movie .
There is no plot, and no good acting ,and I felt the entire movie seems to have been shot in Irritatavision with so many people talking at once that you just want to strangle someone!
bottom line: Avoid this if you can. and me? ..I will never, ever see another Robert Altman movie.
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on March 9, 2002
With all respect to Altman devotees, "Dr. T" ia a real failure. Some say this sprawling, shapeless movies is in genuine Altman-style with goos readon. All right, they are getting what they want. But there is another way of talking about it, and that is, Altman is just another overrated director because of his apparently anti-Hollywood attitude or his cynical observation about everthing he dislikes...
For those who're interested in the film's plot, "Dr. T" displays in its center a gynecologist Richard Gere and his life, which starts to be shaky after his wife Farrah Fawcett is hospitalized due to a rare (fictional) mental disease, which is the result of too much affection given to her. At the same time around Dr. T's office come countless ladies every day that represent the entire high society of Dallas (where Texas-born writer Anne Rapp once lived). And Doc must face the wedding day of his daughter when a lovely golfer Helen "Bree" Hunt appears in his life. Troubles and troubles follow.
I read a material about this film, in which it is pointed out that the plot is allegorical, partly based on the Book of Job from the Old Testament. As I can remember the contents of the Book only roughly, I do not go any further than just pointing out, but even so, I don't know how to figure out the way to put the messy script of the film together. The female characters are all caricatures with various degrees -- for example, Tara Reid is obsessed with JFK assassination, Shelley Long a high-strung nurse, Kate Hudson a lesbian cheerleader, and so on -- and the fashion they are portrayed is not always kind. I would say not a little nasty. I wonder for what those good female players came to him (I mean Altman) after all.
But the most irritating thing is that their acting is uniformly good, including Gere's. It seems that only the director didn't do his homework, letting his direction as loose as possible, not knowing where he should go, or what he should do. Not biting enough as a satire, not well consctructed as a drama, but just as loose as hackeyed name of "emsemble" can mean...
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