CATEGORIES Comedy, Independent, Romance, Tribeca, Cinematical Indie, Tribeca Film Festival, Cinematical
There's nobody better at delivering overwritten and/or expository dialogue than Chris Eigeman. From the three near-masterpieces he starred in for MIA indie auteur Whit Stillman in the 90s, to his twenty-episode arc as love-interest for Lorelai on that hallmark of overwritten genius, Gilmore Girls, there's no one out there as capable of making an artificially literate script seem natural. In Metropolitan, his 19-year-old preppie casually counsels a friend, "barbarism is cloaked with all sorts of self-righteousness and moral superiority" -- in the midst of a conversation that was ostensibly about detachable shirt collars. Such densely packed rejoinders flow out of Eigeman's mouth with perfect naturalism, to the point where one wonders why he isn't called in last-minute by big-money productions to deliver all of the rough, expository dialogue that Hollywood script doctors can't quite smoothe out. This guy could have made Crash seem witty and urbane.
There are some overwritten clunkers in The Treatment, Oren Rudavsky's feature debut -- or, at least, some patches where dialogue seems to have been lifted wholesale from the novel that served as its source -- but Eigeman shares the duty of delivering it with Ian Holm, who acquits himself more than admirably as the film's heavily accented comic relief. The plot concerns Jake (Eigeman), a self-defeated prep school teacher squirming under the thumb of Dr. Morales, his "insane Argentinian analyst" (Holm). Dr. Morales calls himself "the last great Freudian ... [from] a line stretching from Moses to Aristotle"; his version of psychoanalytic treatment seems to consist primarily of personal insults and harsh critique. When Jake meets (and promptly begins sleeping with) the gorgeous, widowed mother of a kid at school (Famke Janssen), Dr. Morales starts fighting dirty to regain his former place of prominence in Jake's psyche.
Or does he? The genius of The Treatment is that, in the midst of its otherwise straightforward narrative that does what it can to revive the corpse of grown-up romance, Rudavsky makes room for just enough surrealism to save the film from its more serious impulses. As the spectre of his psychoanalyst begins to pop up in places both likely and unlikely, but always inconvenient, it seems more and more prudent to question whether or not the tyrant of Jake's mind ever really existed at all. Still, any disappointment to be found in the film comes mainly from the fact that the Eigeman on display here is as reliable a narrator as we've ever seen.
Anyone coming into The Treatment looking for the ass that populated the Stilman films won't find him -- this Chris Eigeman is sometimes as sharp, but often that sharpness is buried under massive insecurity and indecision. This Chris Eigeman much more closely resembles the Stillman characters that his almost incredible brashness used to complement -- his more thoughful, sensitive, liberally minded flip-sides (specifically, Ted Boynton, played in both Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco by Taylor Nichols.) To those unfamiliar with the Stillman films, this will mean nothing. Amongst those who count themselves as devotees to his trilogy of films about the trials and tribulations of young American socialites, it carves out some sort of dichotomy: you'll either clamor to watch the guy who once insisted that "anti-Americanism has its roots in sexual impotence, at least in Europe" play a nebbish; or you vehemently won't.