The Treatment (2006)

 

Directed by: Oren Rudavsky

Written by: Daniel Saul Housman, Daniel Menaker

Starring: Chris Eigeman, Ian Holm, Famke Janssen

Shot on location in New York on a shoe-string budget ($600,000) and starring Ian Holm and Famke Janssen, The Treatment promises much. Based on the 1998 novel by Daniel Menaker, the film revolves around Jake Singer, an English teacher at a private school in New York, his difficulties forming lasting relationships, and his therapy sessions with Holmís Argentine Freudian analyst Doctor Ernesto Morales. He meets Allegra Marshall (Janssen), and the two subsequently embark on a relationship.

Itís not a bad film, being well crafted for its budget (being shot on Super 16 helped financially, but detracts aesthetically), and I find it hard to discern exactly what it is I donít like about it without straying into subjectivity. Nevertheless, I found the characters to be two dimensional, their motivations obscure and inexplicable, and the narrative too aimless and detached. A side-plot with one of Jakeís pupils, the troubled black youngster Walter is clichéd and goes absolutely nowhere. Jakeís therapist is supposed to be a domineering presence in his life, though Holmís performance is little more than a string of comically mispronounced words. Having sat through the BBCís 1980s sitcom ĎAllo Alloí on several occasions, I can confirm that intentionally mangled dialogue really is the lowest from of wit.

I canít recall a single scene where any of the three main characters smiled at all, and with the disappearance of Walter, Jakeís job is reduced to babysitting the children of wealthy businessmen. This, combined with his burgeoning relationship with opulent widow Allegra, removes him from the realm of everyman, and as such the audienceís heart, leaving the brain the primary organ in charge of evaluating the film. And my brain was preoccupied wondering if there was any significance in the fact Jake Singer is also the name of the protagonist of Jacobís Ladder another film about a New Yorker battling with his own mental demons. Apparently there isnít, but I donít think the fact I spend a good deal of this film thinking about another film entirely is a good sign.

Thereís a scene early on where Jake (the little known Chris Eigeman) lectures his class on the merits of Chekhov and how it is important for the reader to engage and empathise with characters for us to truly appreciate and enjoy literature. The teaching scenes were an invention of screenwriter Daniel Saul Housman, and donít occur in the original novel. Bearing the sentiments of these sections in mind, itís doubly frustrating that I didnít empathise with any of the characters, and ultimately wasnít engaged at all by the film.

 

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