Beyond Therapy is a movie about a group of disturbed, troubled, neurotic, perhaps borderline psychotic, people who are struggling with relationship and their own confused minds. The setting is as confused as the characters' minds, never quite certain, it could be Paris or it could be New York City. The viewer is kept in the dark about that as much as the characters, giving this movie an ambiance of neurosis and delusion. Robert Altman, in genius fashion, let's you venture into the minds of hallucination and fantasy with each scene. You see the environment from a distance, as if peeking at it through an outside window. Watching each character and circumstance is like viewing the people and happenings of a real-life asylum, in the setting of urban America or France, depending on the confused perspective of the neurotic characters.
The film is pure comedy, but you have to be paying attention to catch it. It has a realism and subtlety to its comedy and it never strays from the troubled minds of the people which permeate the whole story.
Jeff Goldblum plays the impulsive, narcissistic, over-sexed bi-sexual that seems immune to others' feelings like a sociopath. Greedy for what he wants, he tramples along hearts like it's a day at the office; entirely oblivious to everything except his own cold desire, Bruce has taken a fancy to an attractive neurotic woman, in spite of the fact he has a boyfriend. Julie Haggerty is the seemingly bi-polar, multiple personality, hostile and loving--alternating between the two often--woman named Prudence who catches the eye of the hard-hearted Bruce.
Christopher Guest plays Bob, the jealous lover of Bruce, who finds himself frustrated by Bruce's pursuit of women. Glenda Jackson is Charlotte, the psychological counselor of Bruce. She is pretentious, confused and perfect parody of the profession of psychology. Tom Conti plays Stuart, lying and sex-hungry psychologist who takes a liking to his client Prudence, in addition to his colleague Charlotte.
Much of the setting for this movie is in a restaurant in Manhattan, as well as the counseling office of the psychologists. We get to see a very decent lambasting of the field of psychology and some of the basic stupidities and inanities of humanity.
Probably some of the most hilarious scenes occur between Bruce and Prudence. Prudence flits from a caring, loving, kind woman to a cruel and angry woman; her behavior is off-putting, disconcerting, and laugh-provoking. Of course, she suffers from multiple personalities. Bruce pursues her feverishly, in his phoney and callous way, seeming to win her heart one moment and totally disgusting her the next. His jealous boyfriend Bob is constantly trying to deal with his lover venturing off into the possibly greener and adventurous pastures of the hallucinatory Prudence. Meanwhile, Bob's mother continues to try to protect and comfort her son, who is often off to group therapy to deal with his woes.
Charlotte, Bruce's counselor, is both prude and over-sexed, a decent statement of the hypocrisy of repression. Altman out-did himself nicely with this one. Charlotte has sexual liaisons with fellow counselor Stuart, who is a skirt-chaser who is eager to get it on with Prudence who is one of his clients.
One of the most hilarious scenes, in all of film history, is when Bob decides to exact revenge on his boyfriend and his boyfriend's lover by charging into the restaurant in which they are dining, with a gun, ready to end this misery that he has had to endure, forever. I will not spoil the scene and the ending, it is the high-light of the movie.
I would highly recommend this movie if your humor is a bit more thoughtful than most, if you are looking for some comic relief related to the rather bizarre field of psychology and neurotic and socio-pathic people. If you like Robert Altman's rather genius and unique direction, you will definitely like this movie. In true Robert Altman fashion, the movie has all appearances of actually happening, an actual peek into the lives of confused, delusional and self-absorbed people. Definitely a good watch on movie night.