First Run Features // 2010 // 95 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // February 2nd, 2012
When neurotic becomes erotic...and boring.
Hookers and psychiatrists. When was the last time you drew an analytical parallel between the two...and then decided to make a movie based on such suspect hypothesizing? Well, you clearly aren't named Jeanne LaBrune and you aren't riding on the crest of some amazing critical support for your bizarro world black comedy (?) Special Treatment. In this often confusing muddle of a message movie, Isabelle Huppert (White Material) plays Alice Bergerac, a very high end prostitute who specializes in intricate role playing fantasies painstakingly created via a lengthy interview and multi-session process with her clients. Even though she's clearly past her prime, Johns line up to partake of her particular skills. Fed up with being a plaything for the rich and perverted, she seeks some solace from a psychiatrist (Richard Debuisne, Special Delivery) who recommends she hook up with a colleague of his.
Enter Dr. Xavier Demestre (Bouli Lanners, A Town Called Panic), a recently separated shrink who has the same disdain for his patients that Ms. Bergerac has for her "partners." What we expect is an explosive showdown between two likeminded individuals, each finding a kind of comfort in the other's outward contempt. Instead, things turn from intriguing to irritating rather quickly as co-writer DeBuisne and co-writer/director LaBrune go on the attack. The main point of Special Treatment is to argue that whores and psychiatrists are selling snake oil to people who never really profit from their profession. By turning the animalistic act of sex into a rigid, structured set of fantasy fulfillments, Alice has eliminated passion and replaced it with complacence. Similarly, Xavier has his hour-long therapist spiel down pat, almost to the point of rote memorization. His issue is in the way his patients rely on him. In both cases, it's a question of finding the right way to fool the paying rube.
Because the main narrative themes never come together as a cohesive artist whole, because both Ms. Huppert (late 50s and looking it) and Mr. Lanners have credibility issues within the roles they are cast, Special Treatment eventually falls apart. It never really delivers on its promise and fades into irrelevance rather quickly. This is the kind of movie that arthouse types go ga-ga over: a laborious lament about something specious that only speaks to those who wish the entire world was in desaturated colors and with subtitles. Granted, you have to give all involved a bit of credit. They are at least trying for a certain level of invention, no matter the middling results of said struggles. Perhaps the core theme is flawed. After all, there are probably very few psychiatrists who would look at the ladies walking the streets of their inner cities and recognize their metaphysical cousins...and vice versa. Indeed, the notion that call girls are nothing more than counselors in carnality has been forwarded by one too many motion pictures. Special Treatment may have good intentions, but it has one lousy execution.
From a DVD standpoint, the presentation put out by First Run Features is actually pretty good. While there are no bonus features to speak of, the audio and video are fairly polished. The Dolby Digital Stereo delivers the French dialogue with ease, and the English subtitles are easy to read (if a tad "loose" when it comes to the translation). Visually, the movie has a flat, featureless appearance and the anamorphic widescreen captures it in all its single-layered look. The colors are muted and the details often hard to define (wonder if Ms. Huppert was requesting a bit of soft focus along the way?). Overall, this is a nice digital package of a film that really doesn't deserve same. Anyone who thinks this movie makes it case with crystal clarity is obviously synced up perfectly with DeBuisne and LaBrune's mentality. Everyone else will see through the subterfuge and demand their entertainment experience back.
Guilty. Good at being cluttered and confusing...and nothing else.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Run Features
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated