Directed by Lawrence Kasdan
Review by Matt Heffernan
Writer/Director Lawrence Kasdan turned an ensemble of relatively unknown actors into stars with his 1983 film, The Big Chill. Now, he tries to repeat history with the three leads in his new film.
The town of Mumford has a new psychologist, ironically named Dr. Mumford (Loren Dean). He has quickly gained more patients than the other two therapists in town with his unconventional approach. He gets a new patient named Sofie, who has suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome since she got divorced. For her therapy, he takes her on long walks, and they naturally fall in love.
Normally, this would be unethical, but Mumford has a loophole: he's not really a psychologist. The only other person that knows this is Skip Skipperton (Jason Lee), a local guy who became a billionaire by founding a modem company. Mumford gives him "buddy" therapy, because everybody in town works for Skip, and therefore can't get close to him. Mumford can count on Skip, but his secret can't last forever.
Kasdan obviously had some good intentions with Mumford, and his usual wit shows through. Even though the film is witty, it's not terribly funny, which isn't good for a romantic comedy. But was he actually going for this genre? It's hard to tell. Maybe he wanted a human interest comedy-drama, but some of the situations are too absurd to take anything seriously. I think Kasdan should leave the couch humor to Woody Allen.
Besides the three main characters, the town is filled with more known actors, such as Alfre Woodard and Mary McDonnell. These other characters help make the film more interesting. Unlike The Big Chill, Kasdan couldn't just lock Dean, Davis, and Lee in a house and make their story work. The environment is key to making this film enjoyable on any level.
So, the three stars may have to wait a little longer for their moment in the sun. Personally, I thought Lee was great in Chasing Amy, and his continued relationship with Kevin Smith should prove to be his best path. As for the other two, we'll have to see.
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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan