Alum Treats Obies to Film
Everyone has a shrink these days. Right? Therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts — these people are supposed to help you. But that isn’t exactly so in The Treatment (2006) by director Oren Rudavsky, OC ’79, which will be screened tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. in West Lecture Hall, followed by a conversation with Rudavsky himself.
Meet humdrum bachelor Jake Singer (Chris Eigeman), who, in his words, does “English and basketball” at an elite Manhattan private school, and his Freudian shrink, Argentinean Dr. Ernesto Morales (Ian Holm), who often aggravates rather than helps the situation with his enigmatic, amusing and fantastical comments, especially in the wily matters of love.
Singer has a doctor father (Harris Yulin) who he never speaks to, a dead mother and an ex-girlfriend, Julia (Stephanie March), who has recently gotten engaged — all of which are factors that push him into a gray state of mind. He then meets the youthfully spirited, engaging and wealthy widow Allegra Marshall (Famke Janssen), whose frankness and directness in approach (“Will you just please kiss me, please?” she asks Singer) is a characteristic all bachelors secretly hope for — apparently, it’s a little less work for the man. Marshall and Singer form an unusual relationship, full of whimsy and sultry underpinnings, both blanketed by their mutual neuroses.
Eigeman, who has traversed through television (Malcolm in the Middle, Gilmore Girls) and movies (Maid in Manhattan), gives a convincing performance of the present-day New York bachelor. His character is full of intricacies that manifest oh-so-subtly in his game face — which reveals all, despite his efforts. Even his short, pithy phrases, minus the silly awkwardness, reveal his teeter-tottering personality, which audiences will at once find endearing.
On the same token, Janssen’s Marshall, part WASP and part socialite bee, flutters from fundraisers to lunches. Although Janssen is more accustomed to action films (X-Men, GoldenEye), she settles in comfortably to express the many nuances of her character, which come from the loss of her husband to her love for her two children, all while still hosting events in her beautiful apartment and seeing quite a bit of Singer.
Holm’s character, the psychoanalyst, pretty much gives the most “oomph” to the film with his gruff, grave voice, skepticism and unpredictability. Morales quickly manifests a prominent presence in Singer’s conscious reality and conscious in-his-own-head reality. Despite all efforts to push Morales out of his mind, Singer finds himself with Marshall in bed only to undergo quirky moments with his therapist in tow (the infinite human imagination is a tricky thing).
“I asked [Holm] to be in it very early on,” said Rudavsky. Holm, whose impressive career has spanned from Pixar to commercials to indie (Ratatouille, The Lord of the Rings, Garden State) was clearly a smart choice.
The film’s score by John Zorn, a snazzy mix between tango and fiddle music, ends up adding the exact amount of salt and pepper to the off-beat feel of the story. Rudavsky called Zorn “a virtuoso…a musician’s musician” who created something that was “relatively gentle and hidden [with] a certain playfulness.”
According to Rudavsky, the film “started with my own interest in psychoanalysis…and going to a therapist.” After graduating from Oberlin, he worked on Dreams So Real: Three Men’s Stories, an animated film about three mental health patients. The work won Best Film in the 1981 New England Film Festival, also garnering other first place awards at other festivals.
But before all that, Rudavsky was a true Obie, creating his own film major in the College and teaching filmmaking and photography ExCos. He made several films as a student, which he claims were “terrible,” laughing at his first attempts at film.
Rudavksy’s first foray into the field was by shooting film for the football team, which was also how he met Peter Hutcheson, OC ’79, to whom The Treatment is dedicated. Rudavsky, walking over to the fields with a hulking camera, first ran into a young Hutcheson, who then wore a kilt and sported a ponytail down to his waist. The two struck up conversation about making films and from there, a friendship was borne.
“He was an inspiration for me and for the film,” said Rudavsky. Sadly, Hutcheson passed away a few years ago.
The Treatment won for Best Film, Made in New York at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival. The film is from a screenplay by Daniel Saul Housman, based on Daniel Menaker’s 1998 novel of the same name.
The movie’s quirky nature is reflected on its website, www.treatmentmovie.com, where web surfers can peruse a range of content and even submit their own “shrink story,” fictional or real, in a competition.
And the best part? One click will take you to Dr. Morales’s voicemail:
“Hello and welcome to the mental health hotline. If you are obsessive-compulsive, press 1 repeatedly. If you are co-dependent, ask someone to press 2 for you. If you have multiple personalities, press 3, 4, 5 and 6. If you are paranoid, we know what you are and what you want. Stay on the line and we’ll trace your call. If you are delusional, press 7 and your call will be transferred to the mother ship. If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully. The small voice will tell you which number to press….”