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BEYOND THERAPY

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, March 20, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: As a Robert Altman fan I took no pleasure in complaining about the filmmaker’s misfires, of which there were far too many. One of those, arguably his worst, has inexplicably earned a Blu-ray upgrade from the Scorpion label. Go figure. My review was published in the Deseret News on March 22, 1987.

The good news is there is a new theater in Salt Lake City attempting to make a serious stab at living up to its name — The Art Cinema — occupying the former lodgings of one of the soft-core porno houses that recently shut down, 45 W. Third South (Broadway).

The bad news is that its debut first-run film is “Beyond Therapy,” yet another bomb from director Robert Altman, whose capacity for taking good material and talented actors and making them seem foolish and amateurish seems to become more prevalent each year. (And news that Altman is re-assembling the original cast of his brilliant “Nashville” for a sequel is a bit frightening.)

Let’s hope the Art Cinema has better luck with future first-run bookings.

But enough digression; “Beyond Therapy” is at issue here.

Christopher Durang’s play (he co-wrote this script with Altman) is reportedly a biting satire on sexual mores but the movie is more of a mishmash (no pun intended) of frenetic goings-on that are forced and irritating instead of funny.

The story, such as it is, focuses on a bisexual kook (Jeff Goldblum) and his infatuation with an even more quirky woman (Julie Hagerty), along with their respective therapists (Tom Conti, Glenda Jackson), who are crazier than their patients.

Oh yes, and there’s Christopher Guest as Goldblum’s prissy homosexual lover, with whom he lives. And Guest’s zany mother (Genevieve Page) who lives next door to them. And we mustn’t forget all those weirdoes in the restaurant.

     

Tom Conti, left, Julie Hagerty, Jeff Goldblum, 'Beyond Therapy' (1987)

Goldblum and Hagerty meet in a French restaurant, supposedly in New York (but there is no attempt to cover the location photography in what is clearly Paris). Golblum has placed an ad in New York Magazine; Hagerty is answering it.

It’s hate at first sight — or is it? They consult their therapists, who just happen to have offices next door to each other, and meet again when Goldblum places another ad in the magazine.

Meanwhile, Guest is very jealous and his mother also intervenes telling Goldblum what a bum he is.

Goldblum gives a performance that exhibits mild affectations but Hagerty is even more nervous and full of tics than usual, which is distracting and discomforting.

Better are Conti, oozing his usual charm and affecting an Italian accent (which he inexplicably drops in the final scene), and especially Jackson whose wacky psychiatrist is at times quite funny — but not funny enough to save the show.

It is Guest, however, who gives a more rounded performance than anyone else in the film.

     

But Altman directs with such a bizarre heavy hand one wonders if he read his own script. His trademark overlapping dialogue and quick cuts and busy movements and actor’s mannerisms become so bothersome that you may find yourself looking at your watch in the first five minutes. (The film is 90 minutes long but feels like 90 days.)

And as if all of this isn’t odd enough, in the film’s last moments — remember, they keep telling us they’re in New York, which may or may not explain the constant noise of cars crashing on the soundtrack  — Hagerty says she’d like to go to Paris, and lo and behold the camera pulls out and up and shows us the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Is this the same Robert Altman who gave us “MASH,” “Three Women” and “Nashville”? (And I also liked “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean,” “A Wedding,” “Streamers” and, yes, “Popeye.”)

Let us not forget, however, “Quintet,” “HEALTH,” “Fool for Love” and “Buffalo Bill and the Indians.” On second thought, let us forget.

Add “Beyond Therapy” to the latter list, in my estimation his worst film since “HEALTH” — worse, in fact, and that’s saying something.

“Beyond Therapy” is rated R for considerable profanity and sexual language, sex scenes (on the soundtrack mainly), some gratuitous nudity and mild violence.