Wrong director or wrong material?

It's hard to review this movie without making broad generalizations. Things like, "Altman can only make a certain kind of movie" or "adaptations from theater are prone to certain kinds of problems". Is it so simple?

Altman must be one of my favorite directors - I seem to have more Altman films in my collection than any other single director. To say he can't do comedy is wrong - what about MASH? What about Cookie's Fortune (my personal favorite Altman film)? Neither are straight comedy, but they pull in heavier elements in a kind of deadpan, take-what-you-will kind of attitude.

So, what's Beyond Therapy? It's a farcical stage comedy, featuring overblown plot and characters, and dealing with relationships and therapy by way of soap opera. There's nothing subtle about it. Altman's actors are all good or decent choices for the material - Julie Hagerty, Christopher Guest, Jeff Goldblum. They can all deliver on these lines, and do.

Altman gives us one of his common treatments - long takes, a camera that wanders between characters, and a musical backdrop to underscore the action. Simply put, the style is wrong. If the material were ironic, it would work. If it were subtle, it would work. But no, the jokes are buried under the style.

And honestly, from this I can't tell if this play would have made the leap of adaptation. With the right treatment, I suspect so, but that's far from certain. Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, what we have on screen is a lot of work to watch with little satisfaction. Altman can do better than this, and I imagine he could have done better here, but his exploration goes with what he's interested in, and that's what we have here.

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