Dr. T And The Women

on October 13, 2000 by Annlee Ellingson
   In "Dr. T and the Women," Richard Gere plays the titular character, a gynecologist who, in director Robert Altman's own words, is "pussy-whipped": His wife (Farrah Fawcett) has retreated into a childlike state; his head nurse (Shelley Long) sees this as an opportunity to seduce him; his sister-in-law (Laura Dern) has moved in with her three young girls; his older daughter (Kate Hudson) is getting married; and his younger daughter (Tara Reid) disapproves.

   After awhile, one begins to wonder if any of these women, while all whimsically amusing, is actually likable. Whiny, selfish and demanding, they fall over each other in Altman's trademark energetic long takes, vying for Dr. T's attention and, it seems, the meandering camera's.

   Then it becomes clear that these women act this way because Dr. T reveres them--"By nature, they are saints," he says--agreeing to do whatever they want, handling them with kid gloves and just generally enabling their despicable behavior.

   There is respite, however, in Bree (Helen Hunt), the new resident golf pro at Dr. T's country club who becomes his links partner and his mistress. Confident, independent and empathetic, she proves to be just what the doctor ordered. That is, until she fails to fall into the role that he's assigned all his other women, telling him that she doesn't need or want him to take care of her.

   This revelation proves to push Dr. T over the edge after his daughter's aforementioned farcical wedding crumbles into chaos, but he is redeemed in a coda that, while refreshingly meaningful and symbolic, clashes with the capricious tone of the rest of the film. Starring Richard Gere, Helen Hunt, Farrah Fawcett, Laura Dern, Shelley Long, Tara Reid, Kate Hudson and Liv Tyler. Directed by Robert Altman. Written by Anne Rapp. Produced by Robert Altman and James McLindon. An Artisan release. Comedy. Rated R for graphic nudity and some sexuality. Running time: 122 min

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