Now that Woody Allen has decamped to Europe — at least for filmmaking purposes — those of us who looked forward to his yearly chronicles of the love lives of cerebral New Yorkers will take what we can get.
There's "The Treatment," for example. Chris Eigeman (TV's "Malcolm in the Middle") stars as Jake Singer, a neurotic young English teacher and basketball coach at a private boys' school in New York.
Jake's not doing well, personally, professionally, or psychologically. He gets up the courage to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend (Stephanie March, "Law & Order"), only to discover she's engaged; his heartfelt but rather sardonic approach to his profession isn't gaining him any friends at school; and he's undergoing psychoanalysis with a therapist who's rather unorthodox — to put it mildly.
"I thought analysts were supposed to make you feel comfortable in your own skin," comments Allegra Marshall (played by Famke Janssen).
"He's more the exfoliating type," Jake explains.
Jake doesn't seem to mind the scrubbing until he meets Allegra. She's the rich widow of one of the school's benefactors, immensely attractive, and somehow drawn to the earnest Jake.
The Argentinian analyst, Dr. Ernesto Morales (Ian Holm), seems supportive. "Will you pursue the healthy sexual interest between you and this dowager?" he asks in his hilariously old-fashioned way. But when it gets serious — in Jake's eyes if not Allegra's — the doctor seems to pop up at the most inopportune moments, seemingly determined not to lose his hold on the maturing Jake.
"The Treatment" was written by Daniel Saul Housman and director Oren Rudavsky, based on the novel by Daniel Menaker. It bears all the hallmarks of a novel not quite successfully moved from page to screen. Various plotlines aren't tied together well enough, and for all the script's intelligence and wit, the novel's heart feels strangely missing. A literate scene in which Jake and Allegra chop vegetables while discussing the "emotionally direct" work of Raymond Carver is filled with parallels and tension. It's exactly the type of thing this adaptation needed more of.
Still, "The Treatment" is a charming film — with a charming score from John Zorn — that marks a promising transition from documentary to film for Mr. Rudavsky. The director has given star billing to two actors who deserve to be seen more often. No one is quite so good at portraying the smart, earnest type who's a bit of a bad boy underneath as Mr. Eigeman, who memorably starred in Whit Stillman's three films. Miss Janssen, with this meaty role, is given an opportunity to show that the former Bond girl is more than just a pretty face.
Mr. Holm is not on screen much here, but when he is, he steals the show as "the last great Freudian" and "the last in a line stretching from Moses to Aristotle to Cicero to Milton." But who in his right mind would choose Mr. Holm — even with that kind of pedigree — over Miss Janssen?
TITLE: "The Treatment"
RATING: Not rated (adult language and situations)
CREDITS: Directed by Oren Rudavsky. Written by Daniel Saul Housman and Mr. Rudavsky based on the novel by Daniel Menaker.
RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes
WEB SITE: www.treatmentmovie.com
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS