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Dr. T and The Women Review

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Dr. T has a problem - well, several: the women in his life. He adores them all, but with problems ranging from nervous breakdowns to confused sexuality and dypsomania, it's not surprising he's got headaches. Enter Bree, a golf pro who might just rescue hi

★★★★★

The latest from esteemed director Robert Altman, and starring a cast that reads like a Who's Who of Hollywood, expectations surrounding Dr. T And The Women have been understandably high. But what a curate's egg the resulting film turns out to be.

It's not bad - difficult to see how Altman et al could manage that. Yet one-dimensional characters, unexplained motivations and artificial premises undermine the efforts of the cast, adding up to an ultimately dissatisfying movie.

Opening with Gere peering between the legs of a visibly embarrassed elderly lady, the film's tone of discomfited black humour - felt as much by the audience as the characters - is set, Altman swiftly segueing into one of his famous tracking shots as a cacophony of well-to-do ladies cause chaos in the reception of the titular hero's clinic. We are invited to believe that Dr. T loves women; they are his life, his job, his raison d'étre - and his Achilles heel.

Yet it's hard to see why he finds them so fascinating when the fairer sex - from his flaky, soon-to-be-married daughter (Hudson) to his alcoholic divorcee sister-in-law (Dern) - is represented by the fickle, shallow and downright loopy creatures on show here. Hunt's golf pro admittedly presents something of a contrast, but we soon learn that she grew up a lone girl with three brothers, so that'll be why she turned out okay. Of course, Altman's calling card has always been satire, and his token blokes are also a sorry bunch, so to take all this too seriously would no doubt be to miss the point - but what that point might be remains fatally difficult to establish.

The cast are uniformly excellent, and Altman throws in several laugh-out loud moments and sly visual jokes (Fawcett dancing naked in front of the Godiva chocolate shop), tempered with enough dramatic events and a final shocking scene to keep PT Anderson on his toes. Nevertheless, where the film falls down is in Rapp's script, which sketches its characters far too thinly for the audience to care, and suffers from a lack of balance that sees satire spill into outright hostility.

Sporadically witty, clever and well-observed, but haphazard plotting creates confusion and a lack of empathy leaves it curiously hollow. No Pret a Porter, then, but no Player, either.