|Beyond Therapy: Altman Sucks the Toes of
Beyond Therapy is one the lamest comedies I've ever seen.
Even Altman seems to know this sucks, and the Altman Caricature Ensemble® pretty
much gives up by the end. The title stems from the fact that everyone in the film is
WACKY!--especially the therapists! HA! But let's meet the patients first.
Jeff Goldblum plays Bruce, some neurotic guy with a terrorist's five o'clock shadow
who looks like he sleeps in his suits. Bruce places a personal ad, which is answered
by Prudence (Julie Hagerty), a fussbudget writer for People. They meet in
this multi-tiered restaurant, and with this being Altman, you know what that means.
There's a covey of rich old ladies in nylon jumpsuits upstairs complaining about
God-knows-what, one whom is disturbed by Bruce's presence, as they all go cackling out the
door. There's some weirdo gay guy eating oysters whose only purpose seems to be a
smirking commentary on the WACKY! happenings in the restaurant. Anyway, Bruce and
Prudence (yes, the symbolism is that obvious) are having a WACKY! conversation.
Goldblum is hunched over, rambling on about Prudence's breasts and all sorts of
inappropriate stuff that he thinks is just conversation. Why? Because he's
crazy! HA HA! Julie Hagerty asks about Bruce's shirt. "My male
lover gave it to me." Uh oh! So to prove that he's sensitive, Bruce puts
Visine in his eyes to start crying. This sends Prudence into a tizzy! She
"can't identify with men who cry" and she "hates gay people."
Well, the dinner takes a tragic turn when Prudence gets hungry. The kitchen is
closed, and when she gets hungry, her face puckers up like a fish! So Prudence
starts making trout faces and puts her bare feet on the table to get the attention of the
maitre-d. This prompts Bruce to do the only thing I see possible: He sucks her
toes. She calls him an idiot; he calls her a "frigid castrating bitch," so
you think that there is no way these two crazy people could ever love each other!
But I'll bet they do!
If you think those two are WACKY!, then GOT A LOAD OF THEIR THERAPISTS!!!! Oh
boy, they are crazy! Charlotte (Glenda Jackson) wears a muumuu around the
office while spouting Freudian psychobabble. Imagine, if you will, Farrah Fawcett's
character from Dr. T and the Women if she was a psychiatrist. She's always
asking patients about their parents, when it's obvious that she just wants to be a parent
herself. Oh, the irony. Just like in Dr. T and the Women, Altman
represents mother-goddesses with fountains and plants, but at least in that movie, Altman
is somewhat artistic in the way he integrates the images in his frames with Fawcett and
Helen Hunt. Here, he just sticks the camera behind ferns and films Glenda Jackson
through the fronds. He might be trying to create a voyeuristic effect, but all he
accomplishes is blocking out most of the screen. And when Charlotte ends up taking
the couch herself, she sucks on one of the plants. Terrible.
And then there's Stuart (Tom Conti), Prudence's therapist whose fake Italian accent is
eclipsed only by Nicolas Cage in Captain Corelli's Mandolin. It's supposed
to be fake, which makes it no less annoying. He thinks he's Don Juan, which is the
perfect opportunity for some Pointless Altman Female Nudity® when Prudence shows up for
her session. She's not naked, of course, but we do find out that they've been having
an affair! "Obviously you can't be my therapist after we've had an
affair," she remarks. See, that's why the call her "Prudence."
Get it?! There's some hilarious banter about how Prudence doesn't think
Stuart's a good therapist because he's a "premature ejaculator." Altman is
so amused by this that he adds some hilarious car crashing sound effects during their
conversations. We never see any cars, and Stuart's office is several floors from the
street, but Altman thinks this is so funny that the sound effects drown out Julie
Hagerty's voice. Whoa Ho Ho! That'll teach that frigid bitch!
Can I stop writing about this yet? No, there's still more. Bruce places
another ad, which, low and behold, Prudence answers. That conversation revolves
around menstruation. Somehow, though, they start to hit off because, well, Prudence
is tired of screwing her therapist and Bruce is tired of gay sex. Prudence goes to
have dinner at Bruce's, but things get WACKY! when Bob (Christopher Guest embarrassing
himself), Bruce's gay lover, is there. Their apartment is a Multi-Leveled Altman
Structural Metaphor®, with Bob stuck under the kitchen behind a translucent door.
They all have a WACKY! conversation, ending up with Prudence insulting Bob's mom
because Bruce thinks she's "theatrical," which prompts Prudence to reply,
"I don't think transvestites are funny." Then there's an in-joke about
Glenda Jackson when Prudence calls Sunday Bloody Sunday "silly."
Well, the whole thing blows up, so guess what it's time for? That's right!
Let's all go get some therapy! So Bruce, Bob, and Prudence haul it over to
Charlotte's, whose office is right next to Stuart's! Somehow, the whole gang ends up
at the restaurant (the weirdo gay guy is still giggling over his oysters), with Prudence
insightfully declaring, "Stuart, you're not a very good therapist." This
is when Beyond Therapy gets bizarre. Charlotte and Bob show up, and he
looks at Bruce and says, "Bruce, I don't like the way you're treating me" and
fires a starter's pistol in his direction. Altman goes into slow-motion and Mozart
while everybody in the restaurant ducks for cover because they think it's a real gun.
Altman apparently thinks this is hilarious, but it's just stupid. After the
clean-up, nobody is arrested or kicked out; they all just sit down to dinner and Bruce
proposes to Prudence. The end. And you just wasted ninety minutes of your
life. Altman wins again.