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Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Dr. T & the Women

Posted By on Wed, Oct 18, 2000 at 12:00 AM

There’s been talk at various times of remaking The Women (1939), that catty, witty relic of a prefeminist era when a woman’s power was based on the right marriage, her worth calculated by the ability to maintain the perfect facade. But where in contemporary America could you find an entire culture of spoiled, pampered, preening, demanding stay-at-home wives whose every need is carefully attended to by others? According to director Robert Altman (Nashville, The Player) and screenwriter Anne Rapp (Cookie’s Fortune), you need look no farther than Dallas, Texas.

While Dr. T & the Women isn’t a remake, here’s a satire where characters seem stuck in a Bush-league time warp, and privileged women are not only placed on pedestals, but enclosed in gilded cages. In Dallas, one man chooses to immerse himself in their insular world, much-in-demand gynecologist Sullivan “Sully” Travis (Richard Gere). The filmmakers envision Sully as not only a man who actually loves women too much, but a modern-day Job. So his tendency to adulate women only leads to increasing degradation.

Trouble begins at home: His wife (Farrah Fawcett) quietly retreats into a childlike state while his daughters (Kate Hudson and Tara Reid) are locked in a competitive embrace over an impending wedding. In fact, every woman around Sully is headed into a state of crisis simultaneously. The exception is the new golf pro (Helen Hunt) who breezes into his life like Katherine Hepburn, making the overdressed women littering Dr. T’s office look like show horses bred for beauty, but too fragile to run.

Dr. T & the Women, for all its fine performances (some terrific actresses in thankless roles), is more style than substance. Even the shock of a graphic birthing scene can’t elevate this women’s tale beyond what can be found in the smothering, perfumed pages of glossy fashion magazines.

E-mail Serena Donadoni, James Keith La Croix or Richard C. Walls at letters@metrotimes.com.

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