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Outrageous--And Outrageously Under Appreciated
gftbiloxi9 May 2005
Christopher Durang's off-Broadway play BEYOND THERAPY was a triumph, and Durang himself worked with director Robert Altman to bring it to the screen. The result is a truly remarkable film--beautifully played by a first-rate cast, quick paced, provocative, romantic, and very, very funny--that is frequently attacked for not being a line-for-line translation of the stage original.

Unlike some Altman films, BEYOND THERAPY actually offers storyline. When Prudence and Bruce (Julie Hagerty and Jeff Goldblum) meet for a blind date the result is disastrous--not surprising, when Bruce casually notes that he is bisexual and living with lover Bob (Christopher Guest.) Prudence and Bruce rush back to their therapists (Tom Conti and Glenda Jackson, respectively) for advice... but their therapists are nuttier than they are, and soon they, Bob, Bob's mother Zizi (Genevieve Page), and the entire waitstaff of a French restaurant are dragged into the fray.

Durang's script adaptation and Altman's wall-of-sound take on it is wickedly funny, and so many memorable lines ("My mother is NOT a transvestite!") bounce through the film that the effect is absolutely dizzying; the sound design is also memorable for the constant car crashes and china shattering that occurs in the background, a metaphor for collision of characters happening before our eyes. The entire cast is absolutely first rate (Hagerty, Goldblum, and Guest have never been better), and Altman guides them with a very sure hand.

Altman's vision always divides viewers: you either like his films or you do not. Although BEYOND THERAPY offers a relatively small cast in a cohesive story, it is actually one of Altman's most visually and aurally kaleidoscopic films, and it is unlikely to convert those who find his style confusing and frustrating. But that said, this is a must-have film for any Altman fan, a truly enjoyable romantic comedy with a razor sharp script and a joyous style. Strongly, strongly recommended.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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It's ALTMAN folks - and a good presentation of same!
caa8217 August 2006
This movie has been trashed by a lot of folks, both professional reviewers and amateurs, and gets an overall little better than a "4" average in this site. Some I've seen have given it a zilch - not even 1 star. There are those who bemoan Altman's ruining Durang's great play (c'mon, he's a good one, but certainly not Shakespeare, and this story isn't "Hamlet"). Besides, he wrote the screenplay, too, and who - either writing or viewing this film - should be surprised at Altman's usual cacophony among the participants. This signature trait of his is why so many folks are at the opposite extremes in their opinions of Altman's work (I'm one of those who love his films).

"Columbo" is one of my all-time favorite television shows, especially the earlier ones (after only the great "Larry Sanders Show;" don't know whether "Larry David" will settle into 3rd place, or nudge-out Peter Falk). My late mother couldn't watch "Columbo," although detective dramas were always her favorite genre. She couldn't abide his mumbling, and the way he always schlepped into and out of scenes, and always came back for "just one more thing." She was very intelligent, and didn't need me to explain that these were the key elements of this iconic lead character - she simply didn't like them. So it should be with those who watch an Altman offering and then bitch about it. Go watch some "Capra," no less great in his own way than Altman, but you'll keep your blood pressure down.

This flick is outstanding, in my opinion. The characters are quirky (understatement), funny, sympathetic and interesting. The main cast - Goldblum, Hagerty, Guest, Conti, Jackson and Page - are wonderful, as are the supporting group. I'll admit - making the film in Paris, with a New York setting, is unusual, and seems at first an interesting puzzle - but not really (who wouldn't, for example, take the opportunity to film a story set, say, in Los Angeles, in Madrid, if the producers would approve?). This is one of those films, also, where I find myself rewinding the DVD to see certain scenes over again, every time I watch it.
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Psycho therapy as the perfect middle class un-reality game
Dr_Coulardeau4 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Let's go to Paris, though it could be anywhere, in any big metropolis of the end of the 20th century, or maybe the beginning of the 21st century. Let's have a bunch of people, boys and girls, men and women, all going through therapy, I mean psychoanalytical therapy, with two doctors, a man and a woman, who are the links between them all. They all are disturbed in their sexual identification not because something is wrong with them, though the women are nymphomaniac and the men are all in between straight and gay, where the two meet, exactly where the straight line bends just before breaking. That situation has been used so often by Woody Allen that we may think Altman is making a farcical parody or a fanciful remake. But you would be wrong to think so. There would have been no reason to go to Paris then. In fact the farce is a satire, a twofold double entendre satire. The satire of all the comedies we get on the big screen that try to sound dramatic and are pathetic, those melodramatic comedies that are supposed to make us both cry and laugh and often manage none or neither. That is an easy satire, the easy level of the satire. The second level is targeting the modern middle class in western societies. They have become dead, uncreative, totally obsessed by themselves, just some dead corpses perambulating in the street that we have forgotten to bury last time they opened the gates of the cemetery. At this level the satire becomes cruel with those self-satisfied baboons we call the middle class who are essentially un-occupied, in one other word idle, and they have to spend and waste their time the same way they spend and waste the money they don't even spend any energy to make. They buy some kind of trinkets for themselves that have to be expensive and time consuming though harmless and useless. That's what psychoanalysts are all about: the circulation of a lot of money in a lot of empty time that gives you the illusion of being so busy that you get giddy and dizzy. I must say it is well done but after a while it gets to shallow to really fascinate my weary eyes.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines
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Beyond Help
richard-mason29 July 2004
I agree with the other posters. I directed the Australian premiere of this play back in 1983, and just LOVED it and all of Christopher Durang's works (I also directed 'Dentity Crisis). So when I saw that one of my favourite directors of all time, Robert Altman, was making the film version, AND it had people like Glenda Jackson, Julie Hagerty, Tom Conti etc in it, I was agog with anticipation. It was probably my biggest disappointment in the cinema.

What is it about Altman that he seems to make a real turkey about once or twice a decade, in between all the wonderful films he makes?

What I can't understand is how Christopher Durang allowed his name to be credited as screenplay writer, when it's a travesty of his play. Especially what was done to the two psychiatrist characters..

And why set such a New York story in Paris/

And why ... and why .... oh forget it.
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a curious psycho-comic misfire
Quinoa198410 March 2010
Maybe Robert Altman needed the change of pace, or maybe it was just because he was in his momentary slump before hitting his stride again with Tanner 88 and Vincent & Theo, but Beyond Therapy is a bewildering effort of farcical cinema. He takes a play by Christopher Durang and 'Altman-izes' it, I suppose. There's the over-lapping dialog, the neurotic personalities, the quirky-cum-insane humor, and the characters that float in and out of scenes like they're on a mixture of whimsy and mescaline. He also gives some good actors some things to do and funny things to say - sometimes too self-conscious to be funny at all, and sometimes so bizarre that it becomes amusing just to see how far it will go. I couldn't say I didn't enjoy watching it all the time, but it would also be unfair to say it's a complete failure. It's just a damn odd duck of a movie.

It concerns patients and therapists, the patients including blind-daters Bruce and Prudence (Goldblum and Haggerty), and their own problems with one another- Bruce is bi-sexual, or bi-curious, or just adventurous, and Prudence is frigid and a little on edge, all the time- and their therapists and people they know. There's not a whole lot of variety in how the scenes play out: there's arguments, there's talking, there's bedroom farce, behavior tics, and a story resolution that kind of folds back into itself just when it looks to get interesting. Some of the dialog, whether by Durang or Altman or both, can be funny at times, or just with the way a character will react to something (the premature ejaculation material from one of the therapists is funny - at least at first until the joke becomes tired), and some of it just... stinks.

The actors do try, or at least they try to. It's hard not to like Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Guest, and in some of the scenes it's equally fun and painful to see them in this material. Glenda Jackson fares better, or just has her own tune to play, when playing the therapist who hates gays and goes through a letter ala dictionary-style to find a word to say. But some of the acting is just weird, and not in a good way. Julie Haggerty doesn't deliver anything to make the movie entertaining (frankly I never knew she did anything outside of Airplane! and Midnight Summer's Sex Comedy, and now I remember why), and what must have been some tighter scenes of sex-farce or screwball comedy on stage have been dissected by Altman, and not successfully. Some of the director's touches kind of work, though barely, like the constant cutaways to a bald dude in the restaurant (Michael Berryman's brother, no?) and the slow-motion shoot-out climax becomes impressive just to see how long Altman can maintain it.

But a lot of this is just ridiculous and stupid and insipid as psycho-sex comedy. Woody Allen could have fared better- or perhaps has fared better- with similar material, and would have, in fact, told a better story. Altman is so fascinated by his warped characters that it's all that's there, warped characters. And if we can't care about any of them, ultimately, even in the scope of crazy satire, why care at all?
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It's Altman folks and this is one of his worst movies
finitodistampare27 July 2007
I like Altman 's movies "the player""Short cuts " "Gosford park" , etc. But I watched this movie in his premiere in Spain ages ago and it was a comedy( so the promotion said) , so the movie poster said and a comedy for intelligent people bla bla bla This movie is not funny at all , the dialog have no spark , you don't care about the characters at all and I remember I did not laugh in all the movie . If you ever go to a comedy and did not laugh at all you will understand what I'm talking about. It's like torture . Altman is an amazing director, he is capable of making great movies like "The Player " or incredible flops like this one .
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Altman Can Do No Wrong....but "Beyond Therapy" Misfires"
victorsargeant26 June 2005
Altman usually is brilliant, but after many viewings of "Beyond Therapy" it does not come together, as a comedy. And I wanted it to be great.

As usual, Altman, records the sound, in a real life conversational style, you have to strain to hear the lines. A second viewing will get you into the comedy, but you will have to work for it.

Odd casting left me cold, but they did well, especially Glenda Jackson, and I loved her best.

One of Ms. Jackson's last film appearances, before becoming a PM in England.

Clever shots, in the window from the outside, was realistic, as you felt you were actually overhearing therapy sessions. Bein a family therapist myself, I found the story especially, amusing.

They must have had a lot of fun, making this film.

I wish I could have joined in the party, but felt remotely distant from the action, as an uninvited guest. Stage play originally, which had a short run in LA.

Eat before you see this film, as the film's story will leave you hungry for dinner.
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Beyond Watchable
evanston_dad19 May 2008
I've been having my own little Altman revival over the past months, watching all of his available movies in chronological order, both his masterpieces and his duds. I'm up to 1987, and I think I may have finally found it -- that elusive thing known as Robert Altman's absolutely worst film.

If you know about Altman, you know that all of his movies were an experiment to a greater or lesser extent and that some of them misfired dismally. In re-watching them with a fresh eye, I've found that none (not even some really bad ones, like "A Wedding", "Quintet", or "Popeye") misfired quite as egregiously as "Beyond Therapy". A farcical romp lampooning modern-day (for the time) romance, sexual preferences, neurotics and the analysts who are crazier than they are, "Beyond Therapy" has nothing to recommend it. The two leads, Jeff Goldblum and Julie Hagerty, make their characters instantly unlikable and never recover. Tom Conti and Glenda Jackson are probably the best members of the cast, as two whacked out therapists, but the parts they're given to play feel random and arbitrary. Christopher Guest basically plays the petulant gay man he would reprise so classically ten years later in "Waiting for Guffman".

I don't know how Christopher Durang's stage play would read in a different context. It seems paper thin judging by this version, but knowing Altman, I have a feeling he dealt with the source material liberally, and who knows how much of Durang's original play remains. This film certainly has Altman's footprints all over it, and in this case that's not a good thing.

Grade: F
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Beyond comprehension
smck15 April 1999
Whoever thought of bringing Christopher Durang and Robert Altman together has never mixed oil with water. Never have two artists been more obviously mismatched. Altman creates dark little moody set pieces, and moves at his own leisurely (and idiosyncratic) pace; Durang's fast little funny script practically begs for a crackling speed-thru, and this movie goes on forever. Still, if you're not familiar with Durang or if you can watch this without any preconceived notions, there are some very funny moments, and Christopher Guest, as always, is priceless.
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Painful to the ears
Charly-259 October 1999
Not only is Christopher Durang's delicious comedy totally ruined on film, the sound quality in many scenes is so bad, it is a painful strain on the ears of the viewers. Often Julie Hagerty's soft voice is completely drowned out by traffic and other background noises. Somebody, please remake this one!
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A disservice to the play . . . and all humankind.
Bockharn4 May 2004
Comedy is hard. BEYOND THERAPY is, arguably, Christopher Durang's best play and Robert Altman's worst film. The casting of the film is not terrible -- on paper. But almost every other aspect of the film -- the direction, the look, the sound -- is wrong-headed, -hearted, and every other relevant organ-ed. Still, going on the principle that an artist should be judged by his best work, not his worst, enough about Altman. Even Homer nodded and I don't mean Homer Simpson, but, come to think of it --. Durang's comedy remains incisive and hilarious. From the perspective of 2004 it seems so embedded in its era that it effortlessly transcends its time -- like Restoration Comedy on a good night. This is nigh-on-impossible to see in the film, but it is happily evident in an audio recording made in 2002, featuring a splendid cast of gen-u-ine comic actors, headed by Catherine O'Hara, David Hyde Pierce, Kate MacGregor, and Richard Kind. It's "pure '80s." It's the "me decade" pressed down and flowing over. The peculiar idiocies of idiotic therapists are skewered on Durang's pen as are personal ads, grotesque drama (Eck! Eck! EQUUS!), let-it-all-hang-out personal interaction, and wildly "inappropriate" therapist/patient relationships. It is laugh-out-loud wonderful on CD and may serve to comfort the Durang and Altman fans who are justifiably horrified at the film.
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Altman's Worst Film
roedyg12 August 2006
I gave Altman's Prairie Home Companion my first 10, and I have watched MASH and Gosford Park many times, but this film is an embarrassment. The dialog is boring. It feels like ad lib filler. There are a few clever scenes, but for the most part you keep waiting for something to happen that never does.

It gets its cheap laughs from stereotype gay characters.

The colour reminded me of home movies of the 1950s. The sound was muddy.

I turned off the video several times watching it out of boredom, and returned later, to give it another chance. After all, this IS Altman, Glenda Jackson and Jeff Goldblum.
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Durang Beyond Altman
NJMoon7 February 1999
Suffice it to say, Altman totally botches Chris Durang's first stage to screen transfer by inflicting his insidious sense of style and humor -- which, while sometimes a hoot (MASH and NASHVILLE)-- here are constantly at odds with Durang's sardonic characters and quirky phrasing. Oddly though, there are super perfs by Glenda Jackson and Tom Conti. Funny line about SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY in stageplay is retained here despite Ms. Jackson's participation in the scene ("You remember...that English actress.") Altman's final pull-out is stunningly creative and confounding. What the...??? Sum-up: patrons at multiplex walk through door with sign over it simply reading "THERAPY". Indeed.
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Incredibly grating comedy; Altman's greatest disaster
zetes17 November 2013
What the Hell was that? I'm normally an Altman defender in all cases - I'm a fan of stuff like That Cold Day in the Park, Quintet and Pret-a-Porter - and I've never seen him as a hit-or-miss director who has directed half masterpieces and half flops, as his reputation tends to go. But this is truly a disaster! It's based on a stage play by Christopher Durang, who also adapted this screenplay with Altman. I just can't imagine anyone sitting in the audience watching this garbage thinking, "Oh, man, that would make a great movie!" unless the play was significantly different on stage. I kind of doubt it, though. It has such a peculiar energy, and it's not much like anything else Altman made. It feels like something pretentious people might have enjoyed on stage, more likely in the 60s than in the 80s, because it's just so odd. I'm usually a fan of odd, but this one almost made me violently angry at times. Jeff Goldblum stars as a bisexual man living with his boyfriend (Christopher Guest), but trying to branch out into women. He meets Julie Hagerty on a blind date, and they immediately hate each other. After therapy sessions and a second blind date (they both change their ads slightly but end up together again), they hit it off, much to Guest's chagrin. Every character in the movie is constantly going to their therapist (the two therapist characters are played by Glenda Jackson and Tom Conti). No one acts like a human being in this film, just weird simulacra making faces at each other. There's hardly a laugh in it, and the actors universally embarrass themselves. Better off completely forgotten.
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