- The Washington Times - Friday, October 13, 2000

"The man knows how to handle a speculum," confides a satisfied patient during "Dr. T & the Women," a witty and rather more expansive ensemble comedy from the same team that clicked on "Cookie's Fortune," director Robert Altman and screenwriter Anne Rapp.
With the exception of a malcontent named Dorothy, played by Janine Taylor, the title character inspires and justifies trust in his patients. So much so that the filmmakers must ignore a certain logic for gratuitous comic advantage: Richard Gere's Dr. Sullivan Travis, a Dallas obstetrician-gynecologist, could use several partners to help handle his workload, since the office congestion and hubbub suggests Grand Central Station in miniature.
Dr. T, whose full name would appear to be a punning homage to a Preston Sturges classic, "Sullivan's Travels," reciprocates the fondness of his clientele.
"Nothing is more appealing," he observes, "than a woman who's proud to be inside her own body."
The fact that Dr. T takes a sincere and dedicated professional interest in female sex organs should not be misunderstood. He's a wonderful guy, surrounded by women who couldn't be in better hands while entrusting their health to him.
The cosmic joke on admirable, beloved Dr. T is that his solicitude is not foolproof. Surrounded by women at home as well as on the job he has two grown daughters, one about to be married, and a sister-in-law with marital problems who has just moved in with her three little girls the good doctor can still be thrown nasty curves by life.
For example, a beautiful wife, Farrah Fawcett as Kate, with a mysterious form of dementia needs to be institutionalized after stripping and frolicking in a fountain outside the Godiva chocolate store at a Dallas shopping mall.
The prospective bride, Kate Hudson's Dee Dee, is about to go off another deep end, timed for the chaotic marriage ceremony itself.
Though something of a nut and employed at a "conspiracy museum" near the fateful Dealey Plaza Dr. T's other daughter, Tara Reid as Connie, possesses the sort of intuition that allows her to anticipate Dee Dee's wayward condition, which takes her father completely by surprise.
But he's also unprepared for the abiding crush that finally overwhelms his head nurse, Carolyn, a splendid new comic opportunity for Shelley Long. He fails to anticipate the fickle nature of a woman he falls in love with on the rebound from Kate's lunacy, Helen Hunt as a golf pro called Bree.
Perhaps virtuous to a fault, Dr. T is a little slow to realize that all these women have impulses and agendas that could mock his good will and his capacity to guarantee contentment.
Judging from the way circumstances gang up on Dr. T, you can't protect yourself adequately in this life even if you make a systematic effort to be useful, generous and understanding.
Not that the upshot of Dr. T's trials and setbacks is pessimistic. Quite the contrary.
An elaborate rhetorical finale allows him to experience deliverance through the intercession of a twister, a resort to Mother Nature that works far more harmoniously than the frog plague near the conclusion of "Magnolia."
But the sense of the comedy is that Dr. T has been too preoccupied and complacent to apprehend certain kinds of trouble and heartache.
Mr. Gere seems the perfect choice for this paragon, an elegant and moderately afflicted update on the sorely afflicted Job.
Presumably, Miss Rapp is the source of the feminine and Texas lowdown. She is a Texan and seems to operate from a confident sense of social and sexual humor.
Mr. Altman may have left himself vulnerable to charges of excess mockery of the opposing sex in the past, in projects as far-flung as "Three Women" and "Kansas City," but few directors have been as responsive to actresses and ensembles over the past generation.
If the clever and invigorating Miss Rapp can provide him with some cover, it's fine with me.
The greatest cause for regret during "Dr. T & the Women" is that the mosaic shortchanges certain actresses, notably Laura Dern as the tipsy, wishy-washy sister-in-law, Peggy.
A number of episodes, commencing with the initial visit to Dr. T's office and culminating in a remarkable love scene at Bree's apartment, rank with the most fluid and accomplished sequences Mr. Altman has ever orchestrated.

3 and 1/2 out of four stars
TITLE: "Dr. T & the Women"
RATING: R (Occasional profanity and frequent sexual candor, including interludes that simulate gynecological exams and a semi-documentary depiction of childbirth; fleeting nudity; allusions to a lesbian affair)
CREDITS: Directed by Robert Altman
RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes

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