The winner of the "Made in New York" prize at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival, THE TREATMENT marks the feature film debut of documentary filmmaker Oren Rudavsky. In adapting Daniel Menaker's novel of the same name to the screen, Rudavsky and co-writer Daniel Saul Housman have fashioned a social comedy with underpinnings of romance.
Chris Eigeman, who rose to prominence in the films of Whit Stillman, plays the central character of Jake Singer, a prep school English teacher struggling in his life. Like many New Yorker, Jake has turned to therapy and in his case he has sessions with the Argentinean Dr. Ernesto Morales (Ian Holm), a Freudian who comes off as the therapist from hell. He is sarcastic, nasty, withholding and sometimes not all that helpful. Nevertheless, each time that Jake decides to terminate the sessions, the good doctor guilts him into continuing.
Jake's life gets complicated when he encounters wealthy widow Allegra Marshall (Famke Janssen) at the school. Drawn to one another, the pair begin an affair. Dr. Morales suggests that Jake keep it light and just enjoy the sex. Jake, however, falls in love and wants a real relationship. That's the basic crux of the film.
THE TREATMENT is not a perfect movie. Some of the subplots and secondary characters are not as developed as they could be. One storyline involving a minority student doesn't really play out and is dropped about half-way through the movie. A secondary one revolving around an adoption swallows up much of the action of the second half and is resolved in a somewhat unrealistic manner.
Despite the flaws, the actors are pretty much all on target. Stephanie March appears as a former flame of Jake's, Roger Rees is the school's headmaster, the always marvelous Elizabeth Hubbard does what she can with the underwritten role of Allegra's mother-in-law, and Blair Brown handles the part of a social worker with ease. Harris Yulin has a few scenes as Jake's distant but understanding father.
The three main performances are what carry the film, though. Holm is a hoot as the therapist who seems to be in need of treatment of his own. Janssen does a lovely job as the widow who tentatively falls in love. Most of the heavy lifting falls on Eigeman and it's a pleasure to see the actor back in form. He does a splendid job and anchors the movie.
I did not get to see THE TREATMENT at Tribeca in 2006, so it's nice to have the opportunity finally to view it. By no means is it a great movie, but it does have its pleasures and is enjoyable thanks to its trio of leading performers.