Head shrinker alert

The Treatment

on May 04, 2007 by John P. McCarthy

The title here refers to an aborted course of psychoanalysis, and, considering the peculiar and aggressive methods of the therapist in question, it's no wonder the patient pulls the plug. Based on a novel by Daniel Menaker, this prize-winner from the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival (“Best Film, Made in New York”) presents an offbeat and slightly passé take on the mental health profession along with romantic-comedy filler that lacks whimsy. The effect is best represented by the accordion-drenched soundtrack and the analyst couches floating through the air during the opening credits. (The lone settee in the middle of Central Park at movie's end is open to interpretation.)

Using an absurd accent that comes and goes, Ian Holm plays Argentine shrink Dr. Ernesto Morales. The impish analyst dispenses maddeningly provocative advice to Jacob Singer (Chris Eigeman), a clever neurotic who teaches English at an all-boys prep school in Manhattan. Jacob can't get over his newly engaged ex-girlfriend, yet things start looking up when he's seduced by a fetching widow (Famke Janssen) with a son at the school.

Destined to wander the celluloid universe as a refugee from a Whit Stillman movie, Eigeman's WASP-y Woody Allen persona is well-honed if irritatingly dyspeptic. You sympathize with the idealistic Jacob—his mom died when he was little, and he's good to his ailing dad (Harris Yulin)—but you also want to smack him upside the head, much the way Morales administers verbal lashings. Aside from a few dry zingers, Eigeman has to play it straight opposite Holm's foil, the rare Freudian who actually gives pointed advice. Morales appears to Jacob at crucial moments outside the office, commenting on his lovemaking, for example, and generally prodding him to stop dithering and take control of his life—consequences be damned!

Director and co-writer Oren Rudavsky never gets his arms fully around the promising conceit. So, while expressing and then responding to the frustration felt by many an analysand, The Treatment ultimately elicits the vague disappointment felt by many a moviegoer.
Distributor: New Yorker
Cast: Chris Eigeman, Ian Holm, Famke Janssen, Harris Yulin, Eli Katz, Roger Rees, Blair Brown and Stephanie March
Director: Oren Rudavsky
Screenwriters: Daniel Saul Housman and Oren Rudavsky
Producers: Oren Rudavksy and Jonathan Shoemaker
Genre: Romantic comedy drama
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 86 min.
Release date: May 4, 2007 ltd
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