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Viagra Years

'Dr. T' Invigorates The Great American Sexist Spirit.

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IN WOODY ALLEN'S Manhattan, a character played by Michael O'Donoghue says he's making a film about a man who is so good at lovemaking that the women he has sex with die as a result of the intense pleasure. Diane Keaton notes that this is the most sexist thing she's ever heard, and the conversation drifts elsewhere.

Robert Altman, perhaps the most sexist director alive, has essentially made this film. In Dr. T and the Women, the titular Dr. T (famous Buddhist and pussy hound Richard Gere) is such a good, caring, loving husband that his wife goes insane because she can't cope with all the love and specialness he gives her.

Perhaps Dr. T is a commentary on stupid male fantasies. Dr. T is a gynecologist, all women love him, he's surrounded by beautiful women, and his daughter, on the verge of getting married to, god forbid, a man, realizes that she is a lesbian. Perhaps Dr. T's speeches about how special, delicate and unique each woman is are meant to be self-parody. Perhaps the way he, and only he, can give his gynecological patients the special love that their husbands can't give them is meant to be a satirical take on the Hollywood image of the sensitive man. Perhaps.

But Altman's films, while often great, are usually irredeemably sexist. His M*A*S*H is in fact so horrid in its ideology that it becomes unwatchable: It's basically the tale of two men who are lauded for their efforts to sexually humiliate and debase a woman whose political views they disagree with. Altman's Short Cuts somehow reinterprets the harmless fictions of Raymond Carver so as to include the greatest possible number of naked dead women, and his Pret à Porter, while not long on dead women, is essentially an extended effort to show as many naked women as possible.

Still, one wonders if it would even be possible for Altman to miss the bizarre sexism of Dr. T and the Women, so perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that it's a commentary on just the kind of smarmy sexism that he himself is known for.

The opening scene is, punningly, an "opening scene," wherein Dr. T inserts a speculum into an elderly woman. If you love gynecological cinema (and what maladjusted teen male doesn't?), then Dr. T is the movie for you, as much of the on-screen action has Richard Gere's hands deep inside his assorted (and usually beautiful) patients.

Anyway, Dr. T, after driving his wife insane with his perfect love, is so stricken with grief about her illness that he immediately starts sleeping with Bree (Helen Hunt), who is perhaps the world's only non-lesbian female golf pro. What greater expression of his intense matrimonial love could there be than that he would hop into bed with a younger, prettier woman as soon as his wife is put away?

His wife, Kate, is played by Farrah Fawcett, who must stretch her cinematic muscle mightily to play the part of a ditzy, crazy woman. She's also something of a bizarre plastic surgery disaster, and when she expresses her mental meltdown by removing all of her clothes in a mall, one of the bystanders notes "They're fake!" I'm not sure if the comment was directed at her nose, cheeks, face or breasts, or all of the above, but in any case, yeah, no shit, Sherlock.

Anyway, While Dr. T tries to cope with the intense sorrow of having hot sex with Helen Hunt while his wife is in the hospital, his office is going nuts. There are dozens of women, in the worst of Dallas high-society fashion, clamoring to get his hands on them. Luckily, his faithful office manager, who is, of course, in love with him, is there to keep things under control.

She's played by Shelley Long, of Cheers non-fame, who was kind enough to take time out from her day job of being a washed-up has-been in order to make a "comic" appearance in this film. See, even though she's in love with Dr. T, it's just plain funny, because she's clearly not pretty enough for him.

Dr. T is overwhelmed by the presence of women in his life, not only at his office, but also at his home, insofar as he has only daughters, and his wife's sister (Laura Dern) and her daughters are also living with him. Meanwhile, his eldest (Kate Hudson) is on the verge of marrying, but, of course, that would bring a man into Dr. T's life, so it must turn out that she is a lesbian.

Her girlfriend Marylin (Liv Tyler, playing the only brunette in Texas) introduces herself to Dr. T at his office, while his hands are inside her, and this freaks the good doc out a little. He rapidly washes up and leaves the room.

Overwhelmed with womanosity, he seeks relief among his hunting buddies, including former comic movie star Robert Hays, who apparently had himself cryogenically unfrozen so he could do one more film. Sadly, even Dr. T's men pals are starting to talk to him about gynecology, so they cease to be a secure stronghold against womanness.

I'd have to give away the ending to explain how bizarre this movie gets in its hatred of women (or in the lead character's hatred of women, or in its commentary on the hatred of women, or however you'd like to excuse it), but it suffices to say that the moment of redemption is symbolized by a close-up shot of male genitalia. Seriously.

While ideologically disturbing, Dr. T is cinematically sound. Altman is a master at handling complex stories, he can visually explicate a character like no one else, and the performances, notably from Tyler as Marylin and Tara Reid as Dr. T's youngest daughter, are generally good. Still, while Altman is a renowned master, having made the classic Nashville (perhaps the greatest American film ever), he's also a renowned hack, having made such grade-Z garbage as Quintet and O.C. and Stiggs (both widely considered among the worst films of all time). It may be worth the price of admission to try to figure out which Altman was at the helm in Dr. T.





Dr. T and the Women is playing at Foothills (742-6174), Century Park (620-0750), Century Gateway (792-9000) and Century El Con (202-3343).

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