Written by Caballero Oscuro
The Treatment is an adaptation of a novel by Daniel Menaker chronicling an emotionally stunted schoolteacher’s fractious relationship with his therapist as well as his budding romance with a wealthy widow. If that sounds like a setup for a Woody Allen film, it’s no surprise that the novel and film are also set in New York and expend significant time chronicling the psychotic tics of the main character. Sadly though, this is no Woody Allen film.
Jake Singer (Chris Eigeman) is a single, 40-something teacher at a prestigious private school, a bookish but pleasant man who has been unlucky in love in spite of his weekly visits to his deranged Argentinian-Freudian therapist (Ian Holm). When he meets a beautiful and enchanting socialite widow named Allegra Marshall (Famke Janssen), they embark on a romantic relationship in search of permanent happiness. Unfortunately, Jake keeps experiencing visions of his therapist offering unsolicited advice at completely inopportune times, seemingly haunting him in opposition to his first steps at finding true love. Yes, the therapist angle is as strange as it sounds, and even though it’s faithful to the novel it hampers a potentially strong love story.
The usually reliable Ian Holm completely hams it up in his role as the unhinged therapist, Dr. Ernesto Morales, maintaining a ridiculous Argentinian accent as well as chewing his way through the silly lines allocated to him. He offers inappropriate suggestions, comes out of left field with preposterous statements, and generally makes a nuisance of himself to the point where Jake is hallucinating conversations with him outside of his therapy sessions, often in the heat of passion with Allegra. It’s mystifying why Jake continues to see him when he doesn’t seem to offer any positive impact, and he’s such an unbelievable character in Jake’s reality that he serves as a major distraction and detriment to the film when he begins appearing in Jake’s imagination as well. In short, although the Dr. Morales character gives the film and novel its title (as he’s giving Jake “the treatment”), his excision from the film would have given it a chance to fully focus on what it does right: the budding romance between Jake and Allegra.
Allegra is still recovering from the unexpected death of her husband the previous year, and takes time to open up to the idea of a relationship with Jake. Jake is also damaged from the sudden end to his previous relationship, especially when his ex quickly finds true love, marriage, and pregnancy after leaving him. He’s far from an alpha male to begin with, plus he’s firmly in the middle class, so his ego has a difficult time realizing that the wealthy and refined Allegra might truly be interested in him. Their tentative steps toward each other, as well as the absolutely charming performances contributed by Eigeman and especially Jannsen, give the film a warmth and heart that make it worthwhile seeing through to its predictable conclusion.
The Treatment is now playing in limited release, check local listings for additional information.