Apr 8, 2010

Beyond Therapy (1987)


As long as Robert Altman continued to breathe, he was a movie-making machine, God bless him. This little curiosity is definitely second-tier Altman, but it is one of many of said films which today are deserving of another look. People detested this romantic comedy (based on Christopher Durang's play) when it came out, but I was rather fond of it. I was happy not to be disappointed after viewing it again after so many years. This amusing satire of 80's hang-ups centers around some befuddled Anglophones in Paris. Jeff Goldblum (with tight curls, trendy stubble, and white pastels, looking like he just came from a Kenny G concert) is a bisexual who has a blind date in a restaurant with Julie Hagerty, which of course turns to shambles. They each confide their troubles to their psychotherapists (Glenda Jackson, Tom Conti, respectively) who are only two rooms apart from one another. The room adjoining their offices is reserved for when the two doctors get so turned on that they meet for some hot and heavy sex. The fact that these strangers are nonetheless coincidentally linked by their copulating psychotherapists is not some contrived convenience-- as always, the director makes a mockery of such contrivance-- instead, in the big small world of Robert Altman, points like these become Shakespearean dramatic irony. As with any Altman film, there is enough subplot for a few films-- one of the few threads also concerns Goldblum's jealous boyfriend (an over-the-top, flamboyant Christopher Guest) which to some may seem politically incorrect, or stereotypical, however, Guest's character is strangely moving. I've never much cared for Julie Hagerty as an actress (Airplane! and Lost in America included), however this may the best showcase for her wispy neuroticism. All of this "romantic comedy" culminates in a big dinner at the central restaurant with one weird dream sequence. As always, in Altmania, the result matters less than the experiment. Even a little truffle like this has more moxey than anything from a generic Hollywood poseur half of the man's age.

(originally published in ESR #9; slightly updated for this blog)

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