Dr. T delivers the goods

By Michael Kazanjian
October 26, 2000

By Michael A Kazanjian

staff writer

Robert Altman knows his craft. The acclaimed director of “M*A*S*H,” and “Nashville” (which is currently available in a beautiful DVD package) is back with his third feature in three years. Not too bad for a guy quickly approaching his 76th birthday. In his latest film “Dr. T and the Women,” Altman does what he’s best at, putting together an extensive all-star cast and telling stories reminiscent of the days of Cary Grant and Clark Gable.

Altman re-teams with screenwriter Anne Repp (who wrote Altman’s last film, “Cookies Fortune”) for another over-the-top southern fable. Richard Gere stars as Dr. T, a gynecologist who, ironically enough, every woman in town adores. If you’re willing to take “Dr. T” for what it is, that of an off-beat quasi-romantic comedy, you’ll come away entirely satisfied.

Altman knows how to work a cast. Some of today’s big name directors, like Paul Thomas Anderson, use Altman’s gigantic casting strategy, but with nary the same effect that Altman has perfected throughout his years. Take a look at `Short Cuts” by Altman and then P.T. Anderson’s “Magnolia” and you’ll understand completely.

The women in Dr. T’s life are very typical. We’ve seen them before and know them like old acquaintances. But through Repp’s script and a dynamic cast of women including Helen Hunt, Kate Hudson and Laura Dern, they’re able to transform repetition into something new. Each of them, especially the up-and-coming Hudson who also stars in “Almost Famous,” bring a unique charm and depth to each scene they appear in.

The story is simple. All of the women in Dr. T’s life are inducing an incredible amount of stress upon a man who is already dealing with a mentally unstable wife (Farah Fawcett dancing naked in a mall fountain) planning a wedding and having women falling for him (and away from him) when he least expects. Gere grabs onto the role with a certain charm that many actors of his generation have long forgotten. The role is a good one for Gere who has spent the last several years in roles like “First Knight” and “The Jackyl” that didn’t really fit his likeable but sometimes charmingly cocky attitude.

Gere is able to do something here that Gere doesn’t typically do in his films and that is being the driving force of the picture. It seemed that Gere was more of background leading man, whose name while being synonymous with big budget movies and enormous salaries, really wasn’t the reason people filled theatre seats. Maybe it’s Altman’s carefully chosen, warm shots, or Repp’s endearing dialogue, or maybe Richard Gere is finally growing into his own. Either way it’s something that he will hopefully carry into his future projects.

Just like any good gynecologist, “Dr.T” delivers. Don’t expect to see it as the film of the year and try to disregard the Fellini-like ending. Trust me, I’m not giving anything away, I’m just trying to prepare you for the worst. And you’ll walk away from Altman’s latest like you would the rest of his films, not really sure if you liked it until a few days afterward.

Michael Kazanjian

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