The Treatment



New Yorker Films

NEW YORK -- Based on an acclaimed novel by Daniel Menaker, this debut feature from documentary filmmaker Oren Rudavsky ("Hiding and Seeking") is more than a little familiar in its themes. But while "The Treatment" brings to mind such obvious influences as Woody Allen and Philip Roth, it has enough bracing wit and dark humor to give it its own distinction.

The central character is Jake Singer (Chris Eigeman), a teacher at a posh New York prep school who has just been dumped by his beautiful girlfriend (Stephanie March). He's seeing a shrink to help him through his emotional crisis, but unfortunately the Argentine, strict Freudian analyst Dr. Ernesto Morales (Ian Holm) is far more abusive than helpful. Bullying and demeaning his patient at every opportunity, the doctor also has the unfortunate habit of showing up in his patient's mind at the most inopportune times.

Things start to pick up for Jake when he meets Allegra Marshall (Famke Janssen), a beautiful and wealthy widow with whom he begins a tentative romance, one that is made difficult by her reluctance to move on emotionally. Attempting to nurture this godsend of a relationship, he is forced to deal with his own fears and neuroses, all of which are rudely brought up to him by his omnipresent therapist.

The romantic problems of hyper-neurotic New Yorkers in therapy is hardly a new cinematic topic, but the smart screenplay by Rudavsky and Daniel Saul Housman and the terrific performances more than compensate for the lack of freshness.

Eigeman, looking far more world-weary and vulnerable than in his younger days starring in such Whit Stillman films as "Metropolitan" and "Barcelona," provides a sympathetic, wounded quality to the self-obsessed Jake; Janssen is beyond appealing as his emotionally fragile love interest; and a number of New York theater pros, including Harris Yulin, Roger Rees and Stephen Lang, offer vivid cameos. Best of all is Holm, who is consistently hilarious as the sarcastic shrink from hell.