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TREATMENT, THE(director/writer: Oren Rudavsky; screenwriters: from the novel by Daniel Menaker/Daniel Saul Housman; cinematographer: Andrij Parekh; editor: Ramon Rivera Moret; music: John Zorn; cast: Chris Eigeman (Jake Singer), Ian Holm (Dr. Ernesto Morales), Famke Janssen (Allegra Marshall), Harris Yulin (Dr. Arnold Singer), Eli Katz (Alex Marshall), Roger Rees (Leighton Proctor), Stephanie March (Julia), Stephen Lang (Coach Galgano), Lindsay Johnson (Walter Cooper), Elizabeth Hubbard (Claire Marshall), Blair Brown (Miss Callucci), Eli Katz (Alex Marshall); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Oren Rudavsky/Jonathan Shoemaker; New Yorker Films; 2006)
“It’s an intelligent and thought-provoking romantic comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Oren Rudavsky (“And Baby Makes 2″/”A Life Apart: Hasidism in America”/”Hiding and Seeking: Faith and Tolerance After The Holocaust”), in his first fiction work, adapts Daniel Menaker’s 1998 novel to the screen and cowrites it with Daniel Saul Housman. It’s an intelligent and thought-provoking romantic comedy that plays out as a bracing urban tale about angst over romance, career and family.

Jake Singer (Chris Eigeman) is a nerdy, smart-alecky, thirtysomething anxious English teacher and assistant basketball coach in the prestigious Coventry prep school in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, who is more despondent than ever since recently being dumped by his attractive girlfriend Julia (Stephanie March). He’s emotionally paralyzed over his inability to keep romantic relationships, his lack of communication with his disapproving cardiologist father (Harris Yulin) and his ambivalence of teaching snooty spoiled rich kids in such a highfalutin environment. For help Jake receives therapy from the sarcastic and tyrannically overbearing Argentine-Freudian Dr. Ernesto Morales (Ian Holm), whose combative style of therapy, at the cut-rate of $125-an-hour especially for him, is obviously not working for the desperate patient who is in need of love and acceptance from a father-figure. But, even though he has one foot out the door, Jake can’t make a clean break.

The film is framed around Jake’s real-life encounters transferred to the couch for further analysis.

Things begin to look up for Jake when by chance he meets in school Allegra Marshall (Famke Janssen), an attractive, bright, perceptive and wealthy 42-year-old widow who has inherited her hubby’s seat on the school’s board of directors and has two adopted children—with the eight-year-old boy Alex attending the prep school. Though it’s just ten months since Allegra’s hubby died of a heart attack, the two begin a romance and Jake is asked to explain in graphic detail by his shrink the sex he had with the widow—his first sex experience in a year. Jake is upset that the therapist can’t accept his bliss without being abusive and when his father takes ill over a bad allergy reaction, he uses the opportunity to reconnect with dad by visiting him in Connecticut and breaking from the shrink. Meanwhile Allegra is worried that the toddler Emily, someone she loves very much, will be taken from her because the initial adoption has a clause from the birth mother that she wants her girl raised by two parents and Miss Callucci (Blair Brown), a state social worker, has a decision to make over approving the not yet completed adoption.

This is an actor’s pic, and the three stars are just fine. I found Holm’s shrink from hell therapist a scream, who seems to have dropped in from a Woody Allen film (the film would have been better served if he had more screen time); Eigeman is credible as the neurotic but competent teacher with self-confidence problems in his social life, who means well but as a do-gooder has an irritating way of saying a word or two too much; and Janssen is alluring as the older woman who exudes class, looks and charm. However, even though Eigeman and Janssen give superb performances together, I saw no chemistry between them that would suggest a hot affair.

It’s a small gem as a light farce, notwithstanding an unearned contrived happy ending that was telegraphed long before the conclusion. It won the “Made in New York” prize at the Tribeca Film Festival.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”