This is an insane and fast-paced romantic comedy about a bizarre dinner date among Bruce (Goldblum) and Prudence (Hagerty), and their lunatic therapists, and Bruce's jealous, gun-wielding homosexual lover Stuart, and Stuart's over-protective mother, and a whole group of very odd New York characters. Will Bruce and Prudence find love amidst all the craziness?Written by
One of three films directed by Robert Altman which were first released in the year of 1987. The others were the tele-movie Basements (1987) and Altman's "Les Boréades" segment of Aria (1987). See more »
Maybe Robert Altman needed the change of pace, or maybe it was just because he was in his momentary slump before hitting his stride again with Tanner 88 and Vincent & Theo, but Beyond Therapy is a bewildering effort of farcical cinema. He takes a play by Christopher Durang and 'Altman-izes' it, I suppose. There's the over-lapping dialog, the neurotic personalities, the quirky-cum-insane humor, and the characters that float in and out of scenes like they're on a mixture of whimsy and mescaline. He also gives some good actors some things to do and funny things to say - sometimes too self-conscious to be funny at all, and sometimes so bizarre that it becomes amusing just to see how far it will go. I couldn't say I didn't enjoy watching it all the time, but it would also be unfair to say it's a complete failure. It's just a damn odd duck of a movie.
It concerns patients and therapists, the patients including blind-daters Bruce and Prudence (Goldblum and Haggerty), and their own problems with one another- Bruce is bi-sexual, or bi-curious, or just adventurous, and Prudence is frigid and a little on edge, all the time- and their therapists and people they know. There's not a whole lot of variety in how the scenes play out: there's arguments, there's talking, there's bedroom farce, behavior tics, and a story resolution that kind of folds back into itself just when it looks to get interesting. Some of the dialog, whether by Durang or Altman or both, can be funny at times, or just with the way a character will react to something (the premature ejaculation material from one of the therapists is funny - at least at first until the joke becomes tired), and some of it just... stinks.
The actors do try, or at least they try to. It's hard not to like Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Guest, and in some of the scenes it's equally fun and painful to see them in this material. Glenda Jackson fares better, or just has her own tune to play, when playing the therapist who hates gays and goes through a letter ala dictionary-style to find a word to say. But some of the acting is just weird, and not in a good way. Julie Haggerty doesn't deliver anything to make the movie entertaining (frankly I never knew she did anything outside of Airplane! and Midnight Summer's Sex Comedy, and now I remember why), and what must have been some tighter scenes of sex-farce or screwball comedy on stage have been dissected by Altman, and not successfully. Some of the director's touches kind of work, though barely, like the constant cutaways to a bald dude in the restaurant (Michael Berryman's brother, no?) and the slow-motion shoot-out climax becomes impressive just to see how long Altman can maintain it.
But a lot of this is just ridiculous and stupid and insipid as psycho-sex comedy. Woody Allen could have fared better- or perhaps has fared better- with similar material, and would have, in fact, told a better story. Altman is so fascinated by his warped characters that it's all that's there, warped characters. And if we can't care about any of them, ultimately, even in the scope of crazy satire, why care at all?
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