Playing like a JV version of a Woody Allen fever dream after an ecstasy binge, “The Treatment,” in a small bite of irony, is a picture that has difficulty explaining itself. Sold as a romantic comedy, the picture isn’t quite that. It’s more a mid-tempo exploration of a broken hearts, bolstered by some satisfying acting.
Jake (Chris Eigeman, “Metropolitan”) is a New York schoolteacher without many prospects on the playing field of love, pinned to a couch by his Argentinean, Freudian analyst (Ian Holm) who knows few boundaries. At a party, he meets Allegra (Famke Janssen), a widow with adoption troubles who takes a shine to Jake and his sensitive ways. The two take a careful road to a relationship, with Jake having to battle the analyst, his own complicated previous relationships, and growing doubts to give himself fully to the woman he loves.
There really isn’t too much to process in “The Treatment.” Director Oren Rudavsky goes for a light mood to best cut the dark themes present, including old standards such as mortality and responsibility. It’s a strange hodgepodge of a film, putting its best foot forward to come across like a sunny day, but unable to shake the weird sense of melancholy that invades nearly every scene. There’s nothing wrong with that schizophrenic mood, but it can be unsettling.
There seems to be a host of larger ideas in “Treatment” that are only half-realized; the 85-minute running time acts like a belligerent gym coach screaming at the story to “Hustle! Hustle!” Still, Rudavsky shows an ease with his actors and the concrete New York background; each scene given a nicely metered pass without much directorial weight pushed into the frame. “Treatment” has small intentions, but its friendliness and caution with melodrama makes it a swell change of pace from other neurotic essays on self-absorption.
The experience is truly preserved by the acting, which overcomes the forceful lobs at psychological cutes to give the production a faithful reading of romantic yearnings and fear. Eigeman especially breaks away from the rest of the picture. Not traditionally an actor I enjoy (he can play educated snobbery in his sleep – and has at times), Eigeman reveals a different peek at his range here, gracious in his interpretation of Jake’s romantic weariness as well as his hesitancy with more expected social graces. It’s a terrific performance and it certainly helps that he shares unexpected chemistry with Janssen.
“The Treatment” hopes to push itself through intellectual hoops with Freudian thematic silliness and the mental war Jake wages with his analyst. Underneath all of that is a tender story of love and commitment that doesn’t beg for laughs, respects maturity, and feels genuine when the rest of the film is on the hunt for shtick.Rating: B