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2 reviews, 2 user ratings

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Treatment, The (2007)
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by Marc Kandel

"Freudian Snit."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 TRIBECCA FILM FESTIVAL: Side-splitting, sexy, moving, witty and focused from start to end, “The Treatment” is a winner amongst my TFF screenings. I’ve seen films I’ve enjoyed just as much and perhaps even more since, but this one’s got it all. A fun collision of tough-love Freudian analysis and a complicated nascent relationship create a rich playground for some sterling performers.

Jake Singer is undergoing intense psychoanalysis for crushing anxiety in light of a failed relationship with a woman long over him, now marrying another man. He meets Allegra, a lovely, lonely widow in the midst of a difficult adoption process complicated by her recent loss.

Jake and Allegra find themselves rapidly falling for each other against Jake’s doctor’s orders; he encourages Jake to have a good time, but rails against emotional entanglement given Jake’s flawed mindset and necessity of treatment completion. As Jake rebels against Dr. Morales’ methods, the Doctor begins inconveniently manifesting himself in Jake’s most private moments whilst Allegra’s problems with her pending adoption of a baby threaten to drag the couple into an ethical quagmire which may cost both a very promising relationship, to say nothing of a daughter for Allegra.

I had such an enjoyable time with this film; Fantastic performances across the board from Ian Holm, Famke Janssen, Harris Yulin, and especially leading man Chris Eigeman, who should be working a lot more often on the big screen given his elaborately layered work here (you may recognize him from a reoccurring role as a bitter teacher in Malcom in the Middle).

Eigeman introduces us to a complete mess, a disheveled borderline stalker shuffling around New York. But on a dime, he transforms Jake into a skilled, eloquent educator, respected and liked by his students and the faculty at large. In these more rational moments, one must wonder what the hell Jake’s problem actually is- he seems capable, confident, and charming. So what’s the fuss? Jake is timid, inconsistent, and scrambled, and the Doctor mercilessly lays into his psyche, challenging everything starting with Jake’s simplest turn of phrase: Morales loathes passive, apologist language and demands statements from Jake, not timid probative sentences searching for validation. Okay, on paper it doesn’t sound very funny, but trust me you’ll be peeing your theater seat soon enough. Hmmn. Still don’t have you with that selling point, do I?

The result of this is a cure as nasty as the disease, and Jake quickly tires of what he perceives to be abuse and bullying by the man he has come to (and is paying $120 per hour) for help. The question becomes, which is more important, Jake’s behavioral improvement, or the chance to be together with someone who makes him happy? Can the two goals be reconciled with each other? These are the questions the film asks. A distressing arc where Jake is mistaken for Allegra’s deceased husband by adoption services and he must make a split second choice on the right thing to do and deal with the dire consequences adds spice and stakes to the mix.

I will admit to some trepidation upon entering the theater given Ian Holm’s last outing as a psychiatrist in “Garden State” which provided for some overlong, draining moments, as well as the general predominance of the psychiatric couch used as entertainment fodder these days, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But lo and behold, not only do we have an accurate, engaging psychoanalytic session, but Holm steps up with a completely unique character, ready to kick serious mental ass.

Dr. Morales is not a passive analyst, nor a positive affirmation helper- this is a dyed in the wool, old country Freudian scholar. He goes to work on Jake with a vengeance, sparing no rod nor spoiling his patient with fluffy anecdotes and coddling. What keeps him sympathetic is his obvious and palpable humanism, expressing great love for the human condition and indeed, a restrained but genuine care and concern for his patient, just when one might write him off as an intellectual terror. The moral of my doubt: Never underestimate Ian Holm’s capacity for brilliance. He’ll only pull another great performance out of his hat and make you look like a moron for doubting him. This is a phenomenal, sharp bit of acting from a master.

A quick compliment to Famke Janssen, whose portrayal of Allegra is simply enthralling. She nails the sexiness and playful flirtation with laughable ease. It's the deeper emotions of love for her children, her palpable loneliness and attracted fascination with Jake, and her horror and desperation at the thought of losing her family that really hits it out of the park, giving us a fully realized character and not just a plot contrivance for empty audience-pleasing romance and cheap sentiment. “The Treatment” does not offer such easy answers, only complicated yet satisfying choices.

Freud says “there are no jokes”. “The Treatment” proves otherwise, yet does not skimp on the serious core issues and deep emotion. Either way, it’s a wonderful dramedy of errors that will definitely liven up an afternoon at the movies. What is with me today? Ugh. I feel like Gene Shalit or something.

Too gay if I said it was a real “Treat”? Yeh. Gay. But true nonetheless.

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originally posted: 05/05/06 05:39:36
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2006 Austin Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/23/06 Scott Solomon amusing but didn't grab me 3 stars
5/03/06 Gulley Jimson strangely funny and moving 4 stars
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  DVD: 09-Oct-2007



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