Chris Eigemann plays Jake Singer, a well-liked middle-aged English professor to a group of privileged students at a posh high school for precocious young white men with floppy hair styles and ironic disdain, located somewhere in New York City. Having just discovered that his ex-girlfriend is engaged, Singer begins a psychoanalytic treatment with an Argentinian analyst, played with relatively understated gusto by Ian Holm. Singer meets Allegra Marshall (Famke Janssen), a woman whose deceased husband was a benefactor of the school; she is now the single (and rich) mother of two adopted children.

They fall in love, complicated slightly by Singer's father, a curmudgeonly heart surgeon, and a rather strange plot contrivance involving Marshall's failure to tell the adoption agency that her husband had died even though the biological mother had insisted that the child go to a family with a mother and a father. In one other plotline, left satisfyingly unresolved, Singer has clearly been the mentor to a young African American student, who self-sabotages at this otherwise all-white, all-privileged academy.


At times, the film seems caught between the two conventions for modern school-based dramas: the preposterous histrionics of rich privileged kids who learn about life from the wacky authenticity of their professor (see Dead Poet's Society) and the maudlin grit where a privileged teacher breaths life into charismatic inner city school child (see Half Nelson - actually, do see Half Nelson; it's very good). Here, the two themes come together. Unfortunately, the spectre of violence associated with inner city kids haunts this film, and there is a violent explosion by the inner city kid; perhaps more unfortunately, the inner city kid doesn't beat up the preposterously pretentious rich kids. He does get expelled for angrily throwing a chair (that accidentally) hits Singer in the face. But this is a sentimental compromise, as if the violence was justified, since the chair was intended for the head of a bullying coach who had been mean to him.

Alongside this, there is a gentler class-based love affair between Singer, the now-middle-class son of a wealthy retired heart surgeon, and Marshall, a rich widow. The adoption subplot is narratively strained but well-acted. But the film really comes alive in its core dramatic scenes between Singer and his psychoanalyst. Chris Eigeman's wry sarcasm is never far from raw sadness, and Ian Holms delivers a muscular, emotional performance, uncompromising and uncompromised. Without apologizing for his frank Freudianism (a rarity in modern portrayals of psychoanalysts) and with some truly revelatory insights (rather than pat interpretations), Ian Holms's Dr Morales challenges and inspires Singer in scenes that are both tense and comic; Dr Morales appears at some rather inopportune moments, visible only to Singer and to the audience, where he offers his sardonic and biting commentary on Singer's behaviors, much to Singer's exasperation. Although the ending is teasingly ambivalent, its ambivalence is not a betrayal or repudiation of Morales and the treatment, but honest to it.

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