by Jason Whyte
Altman is a curious fellow. Here's a man who is still willing to take chances, even 25 years after he has made his best film, arguably one of the best ever made, "Nashville," which is a study of over two dozen lives in country music. And while his latest endeavor, "Dr. T And The Women" has no chance of living up to that landmark motion picture, it is still a ballsy, crazy film with all of Altman's trademarks.And like many of his films, it is nearly impossible to sum everything up in a paragraph. Basically, Richard Gere is Dr. T, an incredibly busy doctor in Dallas, Texas, who runs a practice where a lot of yelling occurs, where a lot of patients wait around, all rich white women, for Dr. T's care. His life begins to fall apart where his wife goes ill, and falls for a golf instructor named Bree (Helen Hunt). Meanwhile, Dr. T's daughter (Kate Hudson) is getting married, and has secrets of her own, getting her sister (Tara Reid) mixed up in everything. There's even Dr. T's ex-wife (Laura Dern) who is drinking up a storm and trying to support five children. There's even more parallels in the story that are hard to explain, but work on screen.
"Warning: Contains Live Childbirth."
And so does Altman's style here, where he continues his one long-running trademark of having simulteanous conversations run on screen; it may sound odd to some, but when it happens it is normally all about the same thing (the opening, long shot involves a lot of patients waiting to see Dr. T, and the film's sound is compromised so we can actually pick a conversation and follow it). As well, Altman has fun with a lot of overhead shots and ways of framing as well.
This is almost a completely ensemble cast, but Richard Gere is fine as a doctor on the end of his rope, going crazy with all the women in his life. And Helen Hunt is warm and real as his love interest. Rounding out the cast are Kate Hudson, Tara Reid, Farah Fawcett, Shelly Long, Matt Malloy, Andy Richter, Liv Tyler, Laura Dern, and many others, in good supporting roles.It would help to have seen a few of Altman's films before "Dr. T And The Women" to understand his technique, as an inexperienced viewer of this work may be confused and turned off the material. This is not a film that answers questions lightly or follows a kind of linear structure. When the film reaches its improbable and amazing climax, it will leave many an inexperienced heads scratching, but if you've seen Altman's "Nashville," or "Short Cuts," Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia" or any film by Scorcese, let alone have a degree of intellect as a filmgoer, you'll agree that in these kinds of films, that these strange things happen all the time.
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originally posted: 06/13/04 09:30:05