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MUMFORD

By admin | September 27, 1999

Writer/director Lawrence Kasdan hasn’t directed a film in four years (“French Kiss”) and hasn’t written a film in five years (“Wyatt Earp”), but like every other name director of the last three decades he’s squeezin’ one out before Y2K. If he can point a big, fat middle finger toward the sky and the field of psychology at the same time, so much the better.
Doc Mumford (Loren Dean) has played “shrink” in the town of Mumford in the Pacific Northwest for only a few months, but he’s already established a client list greater than that of the town’s other two therapists combined. All adore him and with his broad cross-section of patients he soon hears all of the town’s secrets. He’s got a big one of his own, though, and his credentials may not be quite what they ought to be.
Whatever the story, Kasdan isn’t in any kind of hurry. He takes his time to develop all of his colorful characters, not all with equal success. They need to stand out as the doctor himself is kind of cipher. That’s the point, really, since Kasdan seems to be telling us that all most people really need is the ear of someone who won’t judge them (and occasionally somebody to tell them to ‘knock it off’) and they can eventually solve their problems on their own. Doc Mumford has to find that out too. He could be right if everyone were like his patients who all seem to suffer from just poor self-esteem and unhappy sex-lives.
The best part of the film is the director’s abrupt shifts in tone whenever we enter a character’s “secret world”. Kasdan has worked in nearly every genre, but keeps most of the film in a sort of idealized, “Norman Rockwell”-type setting, not unlike his “Accidental Tourist” or “Grand Canyon”. When we enter a character’s memories, fantasies, or “personal space”, we get everything from Brian de Palma to Kevin Smith. He should have used this method more explicitly with everyone as it’s the demonstrates how everyone really sees themselves.
Kasdan seem content to let his characters ramble at their own pace until he gets his point across. All he wants is our indulgence in his film and some amusement. Sometimes that’s enough. – Ron Wells

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