a romantic comedy that doesn't insult its audience
Commitment-phobic characters are a dime a dozen in romantic comedies. Yet, no one can deny that they serve a valid function - for without all the tension they bring to the story, how would writers ever get us to that inevitable happy ending? In "The Treatment," which director Oren Rudavsky co-adapted (with Daniel Saul Housman) from the novel by Daniel Menaker, Jake Singer is an English teacher at a Manhattan prep school who falls in love with a wealthy widow whose son is a pupil there. The problem is that Jake, like many men of his generation, seems utterly paralyzed when it comes to taking the full-on plunge into commitment and marriage. In an attempt to overcome this weakness, he regularly sees a shrink who is clearly an advocate of the no-nonsense, "tough love" school of psychotherapy, and who keeps insisting that Jake stop whining and making excuses for himself and simply get with the program.
On the surface, "The Treatment" doesn't appear to be much different from dozens of other romantic comedies that have come our way over the years, but the scenario plays out with so much charm and wit that it makes the situation itself seem new and fresh. We really get caught up in the lives of these characters, mainly because the filmmakers go to great lengths to avoid the superficialities and clichés that render so many romantic comedies phony and unreal. The film is helped immeasurably in this regard by the superb performances by Chris Eigeman and Famke Janssen who have an amazing chemistry on screen and, thus, are able to convince us that these two quite different people could indeed be genuinely drawn to one another. Ian Holm steals every scene he's in as the hilariously deadpan therapist who isn't afraid to say what he thinks, even at those times when he's only appearing as a figment of Jake's guilt-ridden imagination. Harris Yulin is also wonderful as Jake's pragmatic father who still harbors resentment towards his son for not following in his footsteps and becoming a doctor.
Given its low budget, the movie may be a trifle rough around the edges at times, but that lack of polish actually turns out to be a key ingredient in the movie's overall success. For once, a romantic comedy that actually works.
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