A disappointing film from a great artist, Dr. T and the Women trumpets the weaknesses of director Robert Altman while displaying few of his strengths. Script problems are severely compounded in productions that rely heavily on improvisation, and Altman's underwritten efforts, such as this one, are no exception. Virtually unexplored is the film's central male character, gynecologist Dr. Sullivan Travis (Richard Gere). It is hinted that Travis has an almost worshipful stance toward women, referring to them as "saints," but this fascinating hint at an inner life is never delineated. A subplot involving an absurd mental condition suffered by Dr. T's child-like wife Kate (Farrah Fawcett at her breathy, loony best) seems only to exist in order to make Dr. T seem more heroic and attractive to the audience. (Kate's break with reality is caused by her wealth and the unconditional love and support of her husband.) Stylistically, Altman's long-time use of overlapping dialogue reaches a fever pitch with this film, but is a disastrous choice, as it seems to be supporting an interpretation of the central female characters as nattering shrews and sniping backbiters. The film at large is an almost pathetically anachronistic portrayal of women as vain, vapid creatures quick to lose control and disintegrate without the guiding hand and loving attentions of a good man. A bizarre dénouement involving a tornado and the delivery of a baby boy seems almost like a bad punch line to a film that ultimately goes nowhere. Although ingenues Kate Hudson and Liv Tyler give absorbing performances as friends who may actually be lovers, Dr. T and the Women has nothing remotely enlightened to say about women or the men who love them. The film fails to reach the heights of Altman's greatest efforts, generating not even the genuine charm of a box-office flop such as Cookie's Fortune (1999), which ironically was also penned by screenwriter Anne Rapp.
by Karl Williams review