This opening scene is a treasure trove of Robert Altman trademarks: frantic overlapping dialogue, experienced tracking shots, and hilarious improvisation. Unfortunately, as a whole, Altman doesn’t put that biting spin on the work, which as a parody of Dallas and women would have worked wonders for the finished product. The movie, by the time of the birthing scene, feels without a punch, satirical or otherwise.
Dr. T (which dances to a Lyle Lovett score) is another miss in the shaky career of Altman. For every Player there has been a Popeye, and here for the McCabe is a Dr. T. But perhaps more importantly, his 2000 comedy is another ensemble piece for Altman, this one (not unlike Cookie’s Fortune) populated by females. And, as he always does, Altman controls his women well (even in its most chaotic moments), proving to be the finest female-oriented male director this side of George Cukor and Ingmar Bergman.
Dr. T and Mr. A’s women of the title are Helen Hunt, Farrah Fawcett, Laura Dern, Shelley Long, Tara Reid, Kate Hudson, and Liv Tyler, all of whom work well with one another—amazing that in a population of over one million, Altman has found the seven most confused women in Dallas. Richard Gere is Dr. T, a caring man we feel hasn’t spent much time away from “his” women, except while on foiled duck hunts with his pals. He’s made a living from examining a side of women most men make a hobby of—but we know he wants more, as illustrated with the tender scenes with Hunt, which are some of the best in the movie. They do, on the other hand, point to a shameful side of Dr. T, who is cheating on his wife (Fawcett), who has been institutionalized for dancing nude in the mall fountain (a Godiva-esque homage to Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita?).
Dr. T & the Women is an uneven movie, one mixed with rampancy and skillfully restrained scenes. It’s a movie likely to be a charmer amongst not 20-something-males as myself, but the soap opera crowd, tailor-made for 40-year-old housewives to ogle over Richard Gere and his wet tuxedo. It’s a misstep, but a forgivable one in the filmography of the late Robert Altman.
The rest of the disc is more-or-less The Robert Altman Show, which is more than welcome:
Collaborating with Altman (10:24): Actors, writers, and Altman’s sons speak of the sometimes difficult but always unique task of working on the set with the late director. This piece covers many of his popular works (Nashville, M*A*S*H, etc.) and lesser-known movie California Split.
Altman’s Apprenticeship (10:47) traces Altman’s early days at Kansas City’s industrial film company Calvin Co. and how even then, he was breaking the rules with his “Anything is possible” philosophy. From there, we learn about Altman’s big-screen directorial debut, The Delinquents.
Interview with Robert Altman (15:21): Here we have a sit-down with the late filmmaker discussing Dr. T & the Women, from his methods and limitations to shooting and the rewatchability of the movie. Fairly standard discussion, but it’s always a pleasure to hear the legend speak.
The Making of…(11:00) is an analytical look at the film, as well as the cast’s thoughts on working with the legendary director and a few minutes on Richard Gere.
And the Trailer and TV Spots.