Dr.T & The Women
The main protagonist of “Dr.T & the women” is Dr. Sully Travis, played by Richard Gere, who is affectionately known by his upper-class patients and staff as “Dr.T”. He is, and I quote: “one of those lucky kind of doctors”… a gynecologist. As a result of his profession, he is -of course- surrounded by women all day long. But that’s not all, his wife (played by Farrah Fawcett) blessed their happy marriage with two daughters, the eldest of which is getting married in the next few days. To further enhance his blissful homelife, his wifes sister has moved in with her three young daughters, whilst she is finalising her divorce. He has clearly done well in life and is a member of the high-society of Dallas, Texas. Up till now I’ve talked about one man… and a hell of a lot of women, you get the picture? (note the pun 😉
You might think that Dr.T is blessed for this abundance of women around him, but think a little further… yes… women mean trouble! The story starts of in the cabinet of Dr.T where women of all ages and physique flock together for a physical examination and a mental boost by the attractive doctor. They are a force of nature all on their own — stubborn, needy, and fragile — and Dr. T prides himself in being the calm at the center of this turbulent estrogen system. And the good doctor seems happy with this situation as his philosophy on women is very simple: “all women are saints, and they should be treated as such”.
Things start going bad when his wife collapses with some kind of an infantile mental disorder, she was loved too much and her live was too perfect. At the same time, Dr.T, who was unbelievable loyal to his wife, meets a beautiful, strong-charactered, low-maintenance young golfpro at his country club and he starts to grow strong feelings for this independent woman. Both his daughters demand a lot of his attention, now that the eldest is getting married and the younger is yealous of the maid-of-honor. Meanwhile his sister-in-law, Peggy (played by academy award nominee Laura Dern) has started downing champagne like water to deal with her three failed marriages.
Right from the start you know that the doctor is a good man whose tragic flaw is his own goodness. And he is forced to spread his good intentions thin amongst the many women demanding his special attention. Unfortunately, in doing so, he either fails the women closest to him, or overcompensates, pushing them into alienation with his encompassing and rich gifts.
Dr. T and the Women is, as Altman says, an essay film. And the master has chosen his setting as a true virtuoso: Dallas, Texas… home of filthy rich big-haired, unnaturally blond women with too much time on their hands. Now, Knowing Altman’s sardonic humor and his need to connect everything to everything else, I suspect it’s not only because he can’t resist poking fun at the pompous, overdressed women, but because Dallas was the scene of the JFK assassination, a turningpoint in America’s consciousness and a time of reawakening and rebirth for the country. Altman translates this metaphorically in the rebirth and reawakening of his main protagonist, Dr. T.
The first thirty minutes or so of the movie are downright irritating. You cannot tell one persona from another, apart from the doctor, his few countryclub friends and Holly Hunters character, the golf pro. This is one of those usual hallmarks of an Altman picture–its bizarre cast of characters. Question is, are they all up to it ?
The cast has its ups and downs. Richard Gere portrays a man whose world is falling down around him with ease. You can clearly see that Gere has had to learn how to deal with the undivided attention of a multitude of women in real life, he has no problem whatsoever with this role which he plays with fervour. The women in his life: Fawcett, Shelly Long, Kate Hudson, Tara Reid, and Laura Dern have difficult roles. They have to act like ‘Southern Belles’ and franckly, I’ve seen them all do better. Helen Hunt is the standout of the film as Bree; her performance makes the film worthwhile, and it is no surprise that her scenes with Gere are the film’s best moments.
Sound and Vision:
The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is quite good. The colors are beautiful with the clear blue Texan sky coming across well, and colors of the nurses’ uniforms looking sharp and vibrant. Here and ther edge enhancement and pixelation plague the transfer, but that doesn’t really present a problem. I quite like the ‘gritty’ look.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix works well for this drama. The dialogues are clear, the music is crisp and bright in all four speakers, but for the most part the mix is tame. Two thunderstorms at the start and finish of the film give some moneysworth for your surround speakers, and your subwoofer will only activate during these moments.
– a theatrical trailer
– a 5 minute featurette with Altman and the main castmembers
– 6 interviews: Altman, Gere, Hunt, Fawcett, Long and Dern. Good stuff
– a text-description on all important female protagonists
– a 7 minute B-roll giving the viewer cool behind-the-scenes insight into the making of the movie.
Clearly, this is a film that must be enjoyed for each of its narrative elements rather than for the sum of all parts. It’s a Robert Altman film, and fans will definitely not be disappointed. For the fans of Hollywood and ‘easy’ films, I would suggest to rent Altmans top-flick: The Player. It will give a good base in understanding this maestro’s films. And definitely a ‘thumbs up’ for the extras!