Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
USA, 1987. New World Pictures, A Roger Berlind Production, Screenplay by Christopher Durang, Robert Altman, based on the play by Christopher Durang. Cinematography by Pierre Mignot. Produced by Steven Haft. Music by Gabriel Yared. Production Design by Stephen Altman. Costume Design by John Hay. Film Editing by Jennifer Auge.
Odd adaptation of Christopher Durang’s play (the author expressed disappointment with the film version), centring around the pairing of Jeff Goldblum and Julie Hagerty after they find each other through a New York magazine ad and go on a blind date.
He thinks she is interesting but she is put off by his having a male lover (Christopher Guest doing a Corky St. Clair prototype), so they go off and discuss it with their respective analysts (Glenda Jackson, Tom Conti) and get other peripheral characters (including Guest’s mother played by Geneviève Page) involved.
It’s meant to be a humorous look at the culture of New Yorkers and their shrinks, but the comedy never finds its footing in either satire or playful wit; Conti’s sexually aggressive doctor is a full-blown caricature, while Jackson’s forgetful therapist who can barely remember who is in the room is simply bizarre.
Altman employs his usual technique of overlapping dialogue and spontaneous blocking (the restaurant where Goldblum and Hagerty meet is constantly bursting out in random events) but this mitigates the dialogue and obscures the relationship at the film’s centre; it’s hard to ever know where you are in the development of the two characters getting to know each other. The performances are excellent, though, and they help at least make it possible to sit through.