[Moving picture of popcorn]

Laramie Movie Scope:
Dr. T and the Women

How Texas women drove a man crazy

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

November 26, 2000 -- Robert Altman is a pioneer director whose trademark overlapping dialog and long tracking shots have delighted audiences in such movies as "MASH," "Nashville" and "The Player." His 1999 film, "Cookie's Fortune" made my top 10 list for that year. Alas, his latest, "Dr. T and the Women," featuring the same writer as "Cookie's Fortune," doesn't quite make the grade.

Despite the efforts of this great director and some top-notch acting talent, the story never quite comes into focus. Richard Gere of "Runaway Bride" stars as Dr. Sullivan Travis, a successful Dallas gynecologist who seems to have everything going for him. Soon, everything starts unraveling, and it is all because he cannot figure out the women in his life. What do they want?

Dr. T's office is utter chaos, even at the beginning of the film. Altman's famed overlapping voices are used to create a cacophony of caterwauling which is painful to the ears. All these women need the attention of Dr. T. The hypochondriac Dorothy (played by Janine Turner of "Northern Exposure") needs lots of attention. If she doesn't get the attention she wants, she simply gets louder and more strident. Some women in the waiting room appear to have been waiting for weeks.

In the midst of all this, Dr. T seems to be a small island of calm in the verbal storms. He examines each woman in turn courteously and compassionately. In one scene, he councils a woman who is suffering from the effects of menopause, telling her she can call him any time to talk. He means it. On the eve of the wedding of one of his daughters, his wife Kate (played by Farrah Fawcett of "The Apostle") goes nuts and his daughters start fighting over Kate's psychiatric treatment. Then he learns the wedding may be a terrible mistake. All these women are looking to him for counsel, for answers, but he has none. Dr. T himself needs help.

Dr. T needs his wife, but she has turned away from him. His daughters are no help. He likes hanging out with his friends, but what he really needs is a woman to lean on. He meets Bree (Helen Hunt of "Pay it Forward"), a local golf pro who is not like these high-maintenance southern women. She is independent, aggressive, athletic, but very attractive. Is she what he needs at this time in his life? What will happen with the wedding, with Kate, with the office? The "Magnolia"-like ending is interesting to say the least.

The acting is very good in this film as you would expect with actors like Hunt and Laura Dern, who plays Peggy, Dr. T's alcoholic sister-in-law. In fact, the movie has more characters than "War and Peace," so it is not too surprising some don't get developed very well. The drama seems to expand in all directions and dissipate like entropy. At first, I found the bedlam of the doctor's office very irritating, but it makes sense when you contrast it with the relative quiet and calm of the scenes showing Dr. T with his hunting buddies (including Eli, played by Andy Richter, formerly of Conan O'Brien's late night TV show). It is a kind of "Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus" thing. Altman is exploring the differences between the sexes as well as their need for each other (including a lesbian relationship). That seems like an awful lot to bite off in one film. Maybe it is more than even the mighty Altman can chew. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2000 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.
[Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)