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The Hooker and the Shrink: Everyone's Selling Something in Special Treatment

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Special Treatment
Directed by Jeanne Labrune
First Run Features
Opens August 26, Cinema Village

Isabelle Huppert's cerebral, prickly, glacial screen presence—which she has calibrated throughout her career to portray gorgeously complex women—is never less than magnetic. That's why Special Treatment is so disheartening. The film, starring Huppert, quickly telegraphs that its ideas are too shallow for a talent as deep as hers. The actress portrays high-end escort Alice, whose boredom with her profession and clients—dressed as a schoolgirl for one, she glances at her watch in the middle of a tryst—leads her to sessions with Xavier (Bouli Lanners), a psychiatrist similarly bored with and cynical about his own profession. (Xavier practically rolls his eyes while listening to one patient.) They're both assholes, but he's a bigger one. Writer-director Jeanne Labrune hinges the film on the moldy observation that the work of hookers and therapists is often the same; the film intercuts their individual storylines until they meet, and then attempts depth by muddying the waters when they finally connect: Can these two help each other crack the ennui? Despite uniformly fine acting, Special Treatment never really pulls the viewer in because its insights and observations, while artfully rendered, don't possess the energy of revelation; they're largely obvious. But Huppert is impeccably chic—in her various "work" costumes and as Alice—and when she stares inscrutably into the distance, she almost gives the film the heft it is aiming for.

 
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