Tyro fiction helmer Oren Rudavsky brings his documentarian's edge to this whimsical tale of a man, a woman and a shrink. Urbane, literate, quintessentially Gotham romantic comedy snagged Tribeca's "Made in New York" narrative prize thanks to a nicely harried Chris Eigeman, a remarkably unglossy Famke Janssen and a hilariously Freudian Ian Holm. Nevertheless, this offbeat charmer succumbs to the same airless artificiality that has claimed many recent efforts in the genre.

Tyro fiction helmer Oren Rudavsky brings his documentarian’s edge to this whimsical tale of a man, a woman and a shrink. Urbane, literate, quintessentially Gotham romantic comedy snagged Tribeca’s “Made in New York” narrative prize thanks to a nicely harried Chris Eigeman, a remarkably unglossy Famke Janssen and a hilariously Freudian Ian Holm. Nevertheless, this offbeat charmer succumbs to the same airless artificiality that has claimed many recent efforts in the genre. Prospects look iffy for theatrical release, but pic should charm on cable.

Jake Singer (Eigeman), an English teacher at an exclusive boys school, seeks help to get over his ex-g.f. (Stephanie March). At weekly sessions, he lets himself get emotionally assaulted by his Buenos Aires psychiatrist, Dr. Morales (Holm).

Jake falls for Allegra (Janssen), a rich, beautiful widow with two kids. The attraction is mutual, but she’s still struggling to cope with her husband’s sudden death.

Morales encourages a therapeutic roll in the hay, but he warns against deeper involvement. He pops up in Jake’s imagination at the most inopportune moments, usually during romantic interludes. One could raise the question as to whether the good doctor exists at all or is merely a figment of Jake’s paranoia, but in any case Holm’s performance is magnificently cockamamie.

Rudavsky has a good grasp of classroom dynamics, and Eigeman, who has played his share of both teachers and rich kids, conveys a passion for his profession and a distaste for class privilege.

A subplot involving a black student basketball player is suddenly dropped midway, jettisoning the film’s sole nonwhite character.

Tech credits are fine, though Andrij Parekh’s lensing limns a New York too uniformly bright and clean. Score by John Zorn adds a needed touch of ethnicity.

The Treatment

Production

A Shrinkwrap/Center Street production. Produced by Jonathan Shoemaker, Oren Rudavsky. Directed by Oren Rudavsky. Screenplay by Daniel Housman, Rudavsky from the novel by Daniel Menaker.

Crew

Camera (color, Super16-to-HD) Andrij Parekh; editor, Ramon Rivera Moret; music, John Zorn; music supervisor, Jim Black; production designer, Edwige Geminel; costume designer, Erika Munro; sound (Dolby Digital), Joshua Anderson, Lewis Goldstein; casting, Antonia Dauphin, Kathleen Backel. Reviewed on DVD, New York, April 8, 2006. (In Tribeca Film Festival -- NY, NY, competing.) Running time: 86 MIN.

With

Chris Eigeman, Famke Janssen, Ian Holm, Harris Yulin, Stephanie March, Blair Brown, Roger Rees, Stephen Lang.
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