Found-Again Friday: Beyond Therapy

At some point, every kid will beg their parents to let them see an R-rated movie. I was an only child, so I say without shame that my nagging skills—in this and every other regard—were highly advanced, and so Mom took me to see my first R film in the theater when I was 13.

A sort-of art film based on a play.

Why did I waste my +20 Tongue of Nagging on such a thing? In other words, Why Found-Again?–or indeed, found in the first place?

For obvious reasons.

Indeed, this movie represented for me some sort of zenith (nadir?) of Goldblum-fan dweebdom.
Indeed, this movie represented for me some sort of zenith (nadir?) of Goldblum-fan dweebdom.

And for reasons that are obvious if you’ve seen American Dreamer.

I don't think it's actually possible to make Tom Conti not cute, but they certainly had a go at it.
I don’t think it’s actually possible to make Tom Conti not cute, but they certainly had a go at it.

The Premise: I think you have me stumped there. The romantic foibles of some incredibly neurotic people?

Bisexual Bruce (Goldblum) attempts to date homophobic basket case Prudence (Julie Hagerty) while still living with his boyfriend Bob (Christopher Guest). Both Bruce and Prudence are in therapy, with counselors (Tom Conti and Glenda Jackson) in adjacent offices who meet up for quickies during particularly boring sessions. Add in Bob’s excitable mother and a number of minor characters from a French restaurant, and you have a recipe for a nervous breakdown—on the audience’s part, also.

I had an “aha!” moment when I saw that Robert Altman directed Beyond Therapy. While it’s not a comment on the quality of the man’s body of work, this proves Altman’s movies have been Not Doing It For Me since I was a tween (the sole exception: Prêt-à-Porter), and that made me feel a bit better about my initial reaction.

However, it seems to have also shot my usual methods straight to hell. This movie is so scattered, it deserves a scattered writeup. Brace yourself for incoming bullet points!

  • I think this must mark the beginning of Goldblum’s European period, so I did learn something!
  • The set design in this movie is fantastic, from the paintings in the Tom Conti character’s office to Bruce and Bob’s apartment.
  • Christopher Guest with facial hair will always ever be Count Rugen to me, which makes his turn as Bob a bit…odd.
  • At the restaurant, Prudence says she writes for People magazine, just like Goldblum’s character in The Big Chill.
  • There’s what I am pretty sure is an Airplane! in-joke referencing Ethel Merman.
  • While it’s neat to see a movie from this far back with a bisexual protagonist, really, did it have to be like this??
  • There is a very cute rabbit hand-puppet.

The Verdict: This didn’t even make my worst-movies list back on my old site, because in spite of its flaws, Beyond Therapy was kind of forgettable in 1987, and I suspect it will be this time too. As I haven’t yet forgotten it, though, my advice is this: treat it as you would treat the Ark of the Covenant. This is a film whose one sound decision, other than set design, was “Let’s put a vest on Conti.” Unless you too are on a quest to see everything Goldblum ever made, avoid avoid avoid.

Might go well with: Leaving the room, watching a better movie in another room, and having a good, stiff drink.

Next time: Blogathon entry!

J. A.

It reads. It writes. It watches. It researches. It overdoes many of those things!

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