Reviewed by Colin Jacobson
|Dr. T and the Women: Special Edition (2000)
In director Robert Altman's star-studded new ensemble comedy, Richard Gere is a frantically overworked, socially-in-demand gynecologist whose life is coming apart at the seams. His wife (Farrah Fawcett) has regressed into a childlike state, while one daughter (Tara Reid) is raising suspicions about the relationship between his soon-to-be-married other daughter (Kate Hudson) and her maid of honor (Liv Tyler). Meanwhile, just as his champagne-loving sister-in-law (Laura Dern) arrives with three nieces in tow, the doctor falls for the sexy new golf pro (Helen Hunt). As complications mount, the good doctor's life rapidly approaches the force of a Texas tornado!
|Richard Gere, Helen Hunt, Farrah Fawcett, Laura Dern, Shelley Long, Tara Reid, Kate Hudson, Liv Tyler, Robert Hays, Matt Malloy, Andy Richter, Janine Turner
|Budget: $12 million. Opening Weekend: $5.012 million (1489 screens). Gross: $13.065 million.
|Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9; audio English DD 5.1; subtitles none; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 34 chapters; rated R; 122 min.; $24.98; street date 2/6/01.
|Commentary with the Cast and Crew; Featurette; Interview with Robert Altman; Trailers and TV Spots; Cast & Crew Information; Production Notes.
|DVD | Score soundtrack - Lyle Lovett
If you check out the supplements on this DVD release of Dr. T and the Women, you’ll learn that actors seem to love to work with director Robert Altman. If you watch the movie itself, you’ll know why. Actors must adore Altman because he lets them do what they want without much interference. That’s probably a lot of fun for the performers, but often the results aren’t very interesting to observe, and that problem mars Dr. T.
The film concentrates more on a period of time than on any specific plot, as it provides an observation of the semi-downfall of heretofore relentlessly positive and happy Dr. Sully Travis (Richard Gere), or “Dr. T”, as his adoring legion of gynecological patients call him. He maintains a thriving practice, has been happily married for years to his beloved wife Kate (Farrah Fawcett), and has two hot young daughters, one of whom is soon to be married.
Alas, not all is well in T-ville, as Kate suffers some form of nervous breakdown at the start of the film. She goes to la-la land figuratively, which then takes her physically to a funny farm in Tyler. I know this to be an especially bad thing because my friend Kevin’s parents now live in Tyler - a burg about 100 miles east of Dallas - and he always tells me it’s a dump. (Note to irate Texans: blame Kevin, not me!)
While this drama unfolds, Sully needs to address a series of other concerns involving his daughters, his nurses at the clinic, his alcoholic sister, and his neurotic and preening clientele. Ultimately he finds some satisfaction through Bree (Helen Hunt), the new golf pro at his club. Dr. T quickly strikes up a little romance with the lovely club-swinger, and this element further complicates his life, especially since Sully doesn’t seem to know how to handle an independent women amongst the other whiny females in his life.
Where does all this go? Not much of anywhere, really. Dr. T seems like a self-indulgent film that tries to make a point, but it’s not quite sure what that point should be. On one hand, it appears to be a satire of high society women in Dallas; they’re all presented as obnoxious peacocks who really need to get lives. This element doesn’t really do much, though. We learn that these women are genuinely annoying, but that’s about it.
The focus on Sully doesn’t provide a lot of depth as he muddles through his life. Gere largely relies on his usually bag of tricks - crinkly grin here, cynical nostril-flared snort there - and adds nothing to the role. Perhaps there wasn’t much that he could contribute, as the script has little idea where it wants to take him or what it wants to say, but Gere nonetheless does nothing to distinguish himself.
Nor do any of the other actors, though they seem darned content to indulge themselves. Altman loves to pack his movies full of every performer under the sun and grant them freedom to do what they want. The result can be interesting, but in this case, it just seemed inane and dull. The lack of structure wouldn’t be so much of a problem if any of the characters appeared even remotely compelling or well-drawn, but since they’re just a bunch of caricatures, that never occurs.
Dr. T can be insufferably precious as well. When Kate experiences her breakdown at the mall, Altman uses store marquees as cutesy symbols. After Kate disappears, her kids wonder where she went and the camera pans to the “Guess” store. Even more annoying was to shot of the Godiva store as Kate romped naked in the pool. Ooh, how symbolic and meaningful!
If that’s the best Altman can offer, it’s no wonder that Dr. T and the Women provided such a rambling and unsatisfying experience. The movie has nothing to say but it takes a long time to establish its lack of point. Along the way, you’ll be bored, and you’ll also feel mystified how such a well-regarded director and such a solid cast could produce something so dull and incoherent.
Dr. T and the Women appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As a whole, the movie looked quite good, with only a few small flaws on display.
Sharpness seemed consistently solid throughout the movie. At no time did I see any signs of soft or hazy images, as the film always appeared crisp and well-defined. Unfortunately, it also showed some edge enhancement which resulted in moiré issues; I detected mild shimmering from objects like vents and blinds. Print flaws seemed minor. I witnessed some speckles and grit plus a little grain, but these concerns never became significantly problematic.
Colors were a strong aspect of the DVD. They seemed exceedingly vivid and bright, as they often candy-colored society gals of Dallas’ outfits appeared wonderfully clear and vibrant. Black levels also were deep and rich, and shadow detail looked appropriately dark but never excessively thick. Ultimately, the picture seemed very good.
Also fine was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Dr. T. One doesn’t expect a rocking experience from this kind of flick, but within the confines of its genre, the audio worked quite well. The soundfield seemed very natural as it displayed good ambient effects from the sides and the rears. The mix never appeared showy but it neatly integrated appropriate sounds from all five channels and it blended them together nicely.
Lyle Lovett’s score came across cleanly with good stereo separation in the front, and the surrounds offered solid reinforcement. The latter speakers mainly stuck with general atmosphere, but they proved very useful during a few louder scenes such as thunderstorms. On those occasions, the soundfield seemed even more involving.
Audio quality also appeared strong. Dialogue sounded consistently warm and natural, with no edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects were clear and accurate, and they realistic demonstrated the appropriate tones. The score seemed dynamic and crisp, and the music came across with some solid and taut low end. All in all, the audio worked well to complement the film.
On this special edition DVD of Dr. T and the Women, we find a nice mix of supplements. First up is a fine audio commentary from a slew of participants. We hear from director Robert Altman, screenwriter Anne Rapp, and actors Richard Gere, Farrah Fawcett, Shelley Long, Tara Reid, Janine Turner, Laura Dern, Matt Malloy, Andy Richter, Robert Hayes and Wren Arthur. Whew - that’s quite a group! Each speaker was recorded separately and the results were then edited into this not-very-screen specific track.
While not without flaws, the commentary provided a fairly interesting look at the making of the film. Rapp relates the project’s origins, and considering the long list of actors, we also learn a lot about how they delved into their roles. Since actors usually don’t show up on commentaries, I really enjoyed this aspect of the track. Unfortunately, far too much of the piece is devoted to the Greatness of Altman. The performers drone on and on about how terrific a director he is, and it gets pretty tiresome. As a whole, however, I liked the audio commentary, despite these concerns.
In addition, we find some video supplements. “The Making of Dr. T and the Women” largely replicates the audio commentary in that we hear mainly from the actors and they continue to tell us how much they love Altman. Granted, we get remarks from some performers who didn’t appear in the commentary, but the result was the same during this eleven-minute piece. The program offers a few other tidbits about the production that were of mild interest, but as a whole it came across as just so much back-patting.
Somewhat more substantial was the 15-minute and 20-second “Interview with Robert Altman”. As implied by the title, this program concentrates solely on the director, and it combines “talking head” shots of Altman with behind the scenes snippets and some clips from the film. This piece actually was fairly interesting as Altman discussed his philosophies and techniques. It’s not tremendously informative, but it does shed some light on Altman’s work, and it deserves a look.
A few other standard DVD extras round out the package. We find the movie’s theatrical trailer plus five TV spots. In addition, the “Cast and Crew” area provides a slew of biographies. We get some pretty decent entries for 13 actors and eight crew members. Lastly, text “Production Notes” offer fairly detailed and compelling facts about the film and its creation.
While I can’t say that Dr. T and the Women is the worst movie I’ve seen recently, it’s a pretty dull and rambling program. The film suffers from too many characters and not enough structure, which results in a plodding piece that goes nowhere. The DVD provides very solid picture and sound plus some good extras. Leave this one for the Altman obsessives, as it seems unlikely to interest anyone else.