You’re, of course, meant to pull for him, but it’s a balancing act between him being likeably hopeless and just plain pathetic. Veer too far the wrong way, and an audience starts itching for somebody to just slap the guy out of his self-pitying and hurry him on to the third act where he finally gets the girl.
Enter Ian Holm as acerbic Dr. Ernesto Morales, self-titled “last great Freudian,” Jake’s “analyst” and The Treatment’s answer to the whiny single-guy movie. And for the first half, it works quite well.
The main strength of The Treatment is in the performances of Eigeman and Holm, whose therapy sessions frame the day-to-day happenings of Singer’s life. Dr. Ernesto is full of self-righteous, peevish temper and isn’t afraid to cut into the emotionally frail client, which is a very humorous and refreshing arena.
But Jake has a life outside of therapy. He’s an English Lit teacher at a stuffy boys prep school, and the kids do seem to like him and his oddly rousing, convincing lectures.
His boss doesn’t seem to care much for him, though, and neither does the head basketball coach, whom Jake assists. In fact, Jake’s life is somewhat of a mess at the moment – barely speaking to his father and still trying to get over his ex (who just got engaged).
But, here comes recently widowed Allegra Marshall (Famke Janssen in a very strong and honest performance) to offer a glimmer of hope, a new romantic spark. Sadly, she ushers in even more for Jake to muddle through, including her inability to bear children, attachment issues, a paranoid adopted son, an only partially adopted daughter and Jake’s self-conscious need to “deal” with her higher social class in an embarrassingly apologetic manner.
The problem with the film is that its initial charm and verve seem to give way to some overly heavy plotting, which it seems to quickly collapse under. By the time Jake’s father (Harris Yulin) suddenly makes an appearance two-thirds of the way through, the proceedings have come to feel episodic, the spontaneity drained out of them.
Though there is no shortage of wry humor, it’s never the laugh out loud variety and barely enough to keep the weighty subject matter buoyant. Platitudes about love and giving of oneself are piled on in the end, and a puzzlingly goofy final freeze-frame shot concludes the matters, a smart, ultimately tiring meditation upon meditation.
The Treatment releases in select theaters June 15.