Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lovesick, A Great Movie For Valentine's Day

Are you looking for a great romantic comedy for Valentine's Day? Check out the 1983 film, Lovesick, available on DVD. Take the time to find this gem. It was written and directed by Marshall Brickman, one of the screenwriters for Woody Allen's classic "Annie Hall." (1977) So expect some Allenesque humor.

Lovesick is the story of idealistic New York psychiatrist Saul Benjamin (Dudley Moore) and his patient Chloe Allen. (Elizabeth McGovern) Saul first hears of Chloe from another psychiatrist Otto Jaffe (Wallace Shawn) who is infatuated with her. When Jaffe dies, Chloe calls upon Saul to treat her. But at the first session, Saul sees what Jaffe was talking about. Chloe is warm, intelligent and beautiful. Saul becomes smitten immediately. That brings a visit from the ghost of Sigmund Freud (Sir Alec Guinness) who immediately warns Saul of countertransference, a condition which the therapist redirects feelings towards the patient as result of her influence on him. Freud notices that during a session, Chloe exhibits feelings of attraction towards Saul.

During this time Saul must continue to maintain his practice. We meet his patients, some who are clearly psychotic. There's the paranoid schizophrenic former professor who believes aliens are trying to enter his brain (David Stathairn), an accountant with wild fantasies, and a gorgeous nymphomaniac (a young Christine Baranski) whose erotic tales amazingly have no effect on Saul. Yes, his patients are mined for comedic effect but Brickman respects the profession so he doesn't ridicule them.

Meanwhile, while continuing to treat Chloe, Saul falls deeper in love with her. He fantasizes about her. Chloe also drops subtle hints of attraction leading to numerous Freudian slips. During one session Chloe tells Saul that she keeps a diary and when she leaves, forgets her keys on Saul's desk. He believes this is an unconscious invitation for him to go to her apartment. Saul breaks into her apartment and reads her diary which indeed states she is attracted to Saul. It's there that Chloe finds Saul. Rather than being terrified at Saul's presence, she's delighted. That evening they consummate their burgeoning romance. Later, Saul tells Chloe that he cannot be her doctor and wants to maintain a relationship with her.

Unsure whether he really loves Chloe, Saul seeks treatment from another psychiatrist, Dr. Geller, played by legendary director John Huston. In one of the funniest moments, Geller tells Saul that his love is a neurotic condition. Unfortunately for Saul, falling in love has caused some erratic behavior. This leads to an investigation by Dr. Gross. (Alan King) Asked to a dinner with respected psychiatrists, Saul is invited to grow old in the profession and become more like them or continue to pursue happiness with Chloe.

Dudley Moore plays Saul with restraint. Even what little physical comedy there is, Moore does not go over the top. When we first see Elizabeth McGovern as Chloe, one may not understand why two doctors have fallen in love with her. While very pretty, she can come off cold. Then she speaks. Charm. Intelligence. Her eyes exude warmth. Moore and McGovern have a natural chemistry.

Whereas Moore may be playing it down, Director Marshall Brickman unleashes all of his romantic impulses. New York looks gorgeous. I'm guessing it was filmed in the early fall, a period where it is not hot but not cold either. Perfect. Composer Philippe Sarde's soundtrack reflects his French heritage. It's impressionistic, very sweet, and rich. It captures whatever emotion one gets from the sights of New York. There is a purpose for all this romance. During the scene where Saul and Chloe first make love, the lights dim. Freud appears and addresses the moviegoer telling us that we are animals and that our animal instincts such as the need for sex overtake us. Brickman makes a counterargument by using all of these romantic elements to show that love is not a neurotic condition.

Lovesick is warm, witty, and romantic. There's a magic to it. It has a timeless quality. It's a wonderful film for Valentine's Day. The grade is A.

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