The smug yuppie centerpiece of Whit Stillman’s pro-bourgeoisie gabfests, Chris Eigeman switches gears in The Treatment, embodying an erudite prep school English teacher beset by ambivalence about his upper-crust professional milieu. Given the unpleasantness of Eigeman’s typical self-satisfied routine, it’s a shift most welcome, allowing the actor to abandon smirking haughtiness in favor of confusion, regret, bewilderment, denial, and self-loathing, all of which afflict his Jake Singer as he embarks upon an affair with rich widow Allegra Marshall (Famke Janssen). Steeped in an authentic New York City ambience, Oren Rudavsky’s adaptation of Daniel Menaker’s novel follows Jake as he attempts to navigate his budding romance with the help of Dr. Ernesto Morales (Ian Holm), a belligerent Freudian therapist whose confrontational attempts to force Jake to be honest with himself and those around him are less tough-love than creepy-frightening. As Jake begins seeing and hearing the scary doc throughout his everyday life—including while in bed with the tough-but-tender Allegra, whom the analyst claims is a surrogate for Jake’s dead mother—The Treatment calls into question whether Morales exists in the first place, or is simply a fabrication of Jake’s muddled mind. It’s a suggestion that director Rudavsky wisely lets hang in the air without any proper resolution, thus leaving in question the true depth of Jake’s neurosis in a manner that jibes with Jake’s own love-hate feelings for the ritzy environment into which he increasingly finds himself enmeshed. While it has an understated poise, the film’s portrait of inner male turmoil isn’t particularly unique or profound, and both of its subplots—one involving Jake’s relationship with an African-American basketball player (which is unceremoniously dropped midway through), and one about Allegra’s attempts to finalize the adoption of her younger daughter—are contrived and aggravatingly usurp screen time from the amusingly hostile Holm. As for Eigeman, he remains a somewhat overly cocky presence even during Jake’s humblest moments, but unlike in prior performances, he’s also not hateable—and that, it must be said, is something of an improvement.
- New Yorker Films
- 86 min
- Oren Rudavsky
- Daniel Saul Housman, Oren Rudavsky
- Chris Eigeman, Ian Holm, Famke Janssen, Harris Yulin, Eli Katz, Roger Rees, Tyronne Mitchell Henderson, Blair Brown, Stephanie March
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