"It's supposed to be funny," my friend said to me, trying to convince me to accompany him and his friends to "Dr. T and the Women" (IMDb listing). I'd wanted to see "Almost Famous," which came highly recommended by a trusted critic, but I was in a generous mood, so I conceded to seeing a Richard Gere movie (I was in a very generous mood). Perhaps the fact that the movie theater was empty when we got there and empty when the movie started should've tipped me off. But it didn't. I sat down in my chair with my popcorn and coke and prepared myself for a laugh.
I didn't get it.
Dr. T, short for Dr. Travis (played by the beady-eyed Richard Gere), is a prominent gynocologist in an affluent section of Dallas, Texas. The movie appropriately begins in his office as he inspects the innards of a wealthy elderly lady, nervously chattering away while the doc goes about his business. Through this staccato conversation, we learn that Dr. T's wife is named Kate (Farrah Fawcett), that his sister-in-law (Laura Dern) and her three little girls have moved in with him, and one of his two daughters is getting married (a certain equation for disaster). If you're asking where are the men, there aren't any. Hardly.
The only time we really do see men is when Dr. T goes on hunting sprees with his buddies, who never successfully shoot anything, except for their own decoy duck. But these brief interludes of testosterone aren't enough to counteract the level of frenetic female activity racing across the screen.
In this universe of women, the man's life quickly begins to fall apart. After frolicking naked in a fountain, Kate is promptly placed in a psychiatric hospital. In her absence Dr. T becomes enamored of Bree (Helen Hunt). The epitome of Modern Woman, she refuses to let him carry her golf clubs, she insists on driving, and she very invitingly prances around nakedyou know, the typical Helen Hunt tough-girl role. If she played anything else the Academy might realize she didn't deserve that Oscar after all. Needless to say, Modern Woman doesn't need Man, and their relationship fizzles embarrassingly into nothing.
Heck, no relationship between a man and woman works out in this movie. Dr. T's daughter, Dee Dee (Kate Hudson) is promising at first. She's engaged to be married, to a man, but then upon the arrival of Marilyn (Liv Tyler) we soon realize that there's more going on between the bride-to-be and her bridesmaid than one would deem normal. So that's why she wanted to be a cheerleader.
What is director Robert Altman trying to say? Who knows? All we know is that at the beginning of the movie, Dr. T stands up for the integrity of women, insists that women are goddessses and should be worshipped as such, for the most part. We also know that at the beginning of the movie, he's the only one of his men friends who can shoot a golf ball out of the air with his rifle. Then with the disintegration of his life, which we can only attribute to the women who surround him (we're given no other reason), we know that his faith in women is all but shattered, and that the next time he tries to shoot anything, he's forgotten to load the ammo.
The movie meanders. We wonder where it's going for about an hour and a half, and then Dr. T has a Very Bad Day: he gets a phone call from Kate's lawyer who tells him Kate wants a divorce; he gets a heart-to-heart talk with Connie (Tara Reid), his more more down-to-earth, conspiracy-intrigued daughter, who tells him that Dee Dee is a lesbian; Bree stops by to announce that she's going out of town with a "friend;" and while all this is happening, the women in the waiting room are literally knocking each other over. The wedding is a disaster, it starts to rain, then it hails, then Dr. T drives into and is sucked up by a symbolic (but real) tornado, which drops him somewhere in Mexico, where he's discovered by three little girls, of course, and where the movie ends. But there, redemption is born in the face, or genitalia, of a baby boy.
The sequel will be "Dr. T and the Men," in which Dr. T will finally be convinced that only in the company of men can he be truly happy. Then he realizes that all of them are gay, and although this shocks him at first, it dawns on him that it is the best union of man and woman that he'll ever come close to, so he decides to take the plunge himself. At the end he abandons his practice of gynocology and becomes a proctologist.
But while we live in the present...
Despite the absence of a coherent "Dr. T" plot, and despite the fact that the women characters are portrayed as petty, bickering, two-faced, and crazy, the actors' performances are laudable, most notably Richard Gere's. He brings a warmth to his character which he executes skillfully; his performance lacks the saccharine sweetness to which his Dr. T could have very easily succumbed. But this couldn't save the movie. The fault lies with the script, badly written, and the director, who badly executed the badly written script.
Filmfodder Grade: C-