(2 out of 5 stars)
Robert Altman is the director who gave us M*A*S*H, Nashville, and The Player, all cinema classics. He also gave us Popeye, Short Cuts, and Ready to Wear, films that met with much harsher reviews, although each has its own circle of fans.
Dr. T & the Women leaps between both realms.
In many ways it is a funny satire about modern life, who is sane, who is not. But it is also very close to being a misogynistic diatribe that suggests the only worthwhile women are those who act like men, and even they aren't to be trusted.
Dr. T. of the title is Sullivan Travis, a popular Dallas gynecologist who believes that “women are sacred and should be treated as such.” He is played by Richard Gere, who has dropped his cocky swagger and is all the more appealing for it.
The women of the title are the overdressed, catty society dames who crowd Dr. T's waiting room with fake illnesses just so they can be examined by the handsome doctor; Dr. T's staff, headed by office manager, Carolyn (Shelley Long); his daughters, Connie (Tara Reid) and Dee Dee (Kate Hudson); his sister-in-law, Peggy (Laura Dern), and his pampered wife, Kate (Farrah Fawcett).
Because he lives with women, works with them, and deals with their physical and emotional needs on a daily basis, Dr. T believes he thoroughly understands them. But one day in an upscale Dallas mall, Kate quietly strips naked and frolics in the fountain. It is a signal that Dr, T's well-ordered life is about to become undone.
Dee Dee, an alternate Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, is planning her wedding, and Connie, a guide at a museum devoted to JFK assassination conspiracy theories, is not happy about it. Their soon-to-be-divorced Aunt Peggy, who has moved into Dr. T's home with her three young daughters, promises each niece her support, but Peggy's loyalty is to champagne.
With all the chaos going on in his life, is it any wonder that Dr. T's only relaxation is with three close buddies who go hunting and golfing together? The last thing he needs in his life is another woman, but, of course, he gets one: Bree (Helen Hunt), the new assistant golf pro at the country club.
Bree is unlike any of the other women Dr. T. has ever met. She totes her own golf clubs, grills her own steaks, routinely beats the fellows she golfs with, and laughs when she gets caught in a cloudburst. The good doctor is smitten.
Like much of Altman's work, Dr. T & the Women is more a series of vignettes than a movie with a linear plot. Some are hilarious, some are flat, and some are just plain snigger-snigger nasty.
Gere is appealing as the thoroughly decent but increasingly befuddled doctor. Hunt has a tougher job but manages to portray a competent woman without being brassy. Their scenes together have a spark, especially early on, when he's interested but isn't sure that she is.
As events in Dr. T's life spiral out of control, it becomes obvious that that Altman thinks all the problems in Dr. T's world are the fault of women, an attitude that tainted my willingness to be amused by what, at times, was a very funny movie.