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'Dr. T and the Women'

Ladies man: Richard Gere ponders the opposite sex in Altman's 'Dr. T and the Women'

Friday, October 13, 2000

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

Few directors capture the aura of a time or place as well as Robert Altman, the 75-year-old director of such true classics as "M*A*S*H," "Nashville" and "Short Cuts." On the other hand, few directors have made so many films in which aura is all we get.

'Dr. T And The Women'

Rating: R for graphic nudity and some sexuality

Players: Richard Gere, Helen Hunt, Farrah Fawcett.

Director: Robert Altman.

Web Site: www.drtandthe

Critic's call: 2 stars.


His latest release, "Dr. T and the Women," is yet another example of an Altman film with a tantalizing setup, a strong acting ensemble headed by Richard Gere and Helen Hunt, some acute observational humor. But we may feel like Dr. T in the end, blown around in circles and thinking we've had a revelation that I suspect is actually more like the cosmic punchline to a piddling joke.

Gere, who has never been as likable on screen or as comfortable in his skin, plays upscale Dallas gynecologist Sully Travis, who worships women. But, as Altman has said, he sees them only from one angle. What seems like a perfect life is about to unravel.

His wife (Farrah Fawcett) does a strip tease in the fountain at the shopping mall. His older daughter (Kate Hudson) is engaged to be married and hopes to become a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. His younger daughter (Tara Reid), a JFK conspiracy buff who conducts tours of the assassination site, is alarmed over the woman (Liv Tyler) chosen to be maid of honor in those approaching nuptials. His alcoholic sister-in-law (Laura Dern) has moved in with her kids while getting divorced.

In the office, chief nurse Carolyn (Shelley Long) takes charge of the chaotic, overbooked waiting room, where incidents of appointment rage are starting to break out. And then yet another woman enters Sully's life: Bree (Helen Hunt), the new golf pro at his country club.

Maybe the point lies in the fact that Sully's wife becomes unhinged because, according to her psychiatrist (Lee Grant), the good doctor treats her too well. Or maybe it is the way every ensuing calamity starts with the interaction in some manner of women and water -- Sully has recently told his hunting buddies that this is a good thing, for reasons I don't remember.

OK, we get the picture. Sully thinks he understands women but he really doesn't. The rest of the movie illustrates the point by intensifying the gale swirling around him, but doesn't really have any other ideas. The cast is fun to watch, the locations are appealing, screenwriter Anne Rapp's shots at Dallas women with hair as big as their checkbooks can be amusing. But, to steal a phrase, where's the beef?

Rapp also wrote Altman's previous film, "Cookie's Fortune," a minor pleasure that satisfied in part because, in addition to atmosphere and good actors, it also had a story to tell. "Dr. T and the Women" might have qualified as a character study -- if the character in question ever came to understand what happened to him. By the time this passive protagonist figures it all out, there's nothing he can do about it except, perhaps, start over.

The joke's on you, Sully. Maybe I just liked you too much to laugh.

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