Sunday, January 6, 2019

Baby Steps

What About Bob?
Director: Frank Oz
Cast: Bill Murray, Richard Dreyfuss, Julie Hagerty, Kathryn Erbe, Charlie Korsmo
Released: May 17, 1991

I have seen this movie a couple times before, but it's been awhile since I've last seen it and while I remember the basic premise and it being a comedy, I had completely forgotten about just how dark it gets towards the end, and wow, does it ever get dark! I just remembered this being a laugh-a-minute riot.

The Bob in question is Bob Wiley (Bill Murray) who has obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, agoraphobia, hypochondria, germaphobia, high anxiety, and who knows what else. I almost feel bad for the guy (I easily become anxious, so I can relate), but my God, is he ever f***ing annoying! He also does some pretty abhorrent things, though many not as bad as what his therapist will do later on in the movie! 

Not surprisingly, with all his conditions and phobias, Bob has a therapist and in the first scene we see him (the therapist) calling Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss), telling him he's leaving his practice and moving out of town and wants to know if he can take on one of his patients. He strokes Dr. Marvin's ego by telling him that Bob needs someone "brilliant" and assures him he is not psychotic. When he hangs up the phone, he grins and says "Free!" I think it's safe to say that Bob also drove his first therapist crazy like he will Dr. Marvin.

Bob meets with Dr. Marvin and their first session seems to go well. Leo gives him a copy of his book called Baby Steps, telling Bob he just needs to get somewhere "one step at a time" after Bob tells him he gets a bunch of symptoms of anxiety when he's out in public. We learn that he was once married, but divorced her because she didn't like Neil Diamond. (Or maybe it's because she did like him. I forget.) Yeah, I was a bit shocked to find out he was once married, but not at all surprised that he's divorced! When their session ends, Bob freaks out when his new doctor tells him he won't see him until after Labor Day when he'll return from his family vacation. He'll be gone for a month, which seems a little extreme to me especially since they're not going to Europe or any place far away. They're only going to New Hampshire where they have a house overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee. It's a quaint little town, but really, what is there to do for a month? Dr. Marvin assures him he'll be okay and if he does need someone to talk to, he can call one of the other psychiatrists.

Bob tries to get in touch with Leo through the operator but she tells him he is unavailable and can't forward his call. Bob tries to con her, saying that he was supposed to call Dr. Marvin, but lost his number. (Please. Who would fall for that?) She firmly tells him she can't give out the number, but when he asks her if she can call Dr. Marvin, then patch him through to him, she does, which I'm pretty sure is unethical. However, not as unethical as something Bob will do a few scenes later. Bob tries unsuccessfully to figure out where Dr. Marvin is, but to no avail.

In the next scene, the operator calls Dr. Marvin again telling him that his sister is on the other line with an emergency when actually its' a prostitute whom Bob had asked to pose as Leo's sister, then taking the pay phone from her once Leo answers (after thoroughly wiping the receiver with a cloth...after all, he IS a germaphobe!) Wouldn't his sister already have his phone number to his vacation house anyway? And this isn't even the unethical scene I was talking about. No, that comes in the next scene when Bob goes to visit the operator posed as a detective and tells her that he has "questions about a Bob Wiley" and that he had committed suicide, but had left a note mentioning Betty (the operator). First question - why didn't Betty recognize "the detective's" voice as Bob's? Bill Murray didn't change his voice during this scene. Second question - shouldn't Betty be suspicious that Bob supposedly mentioned her in his suicide note? If I were her, I would want to know why he had mentioned me. Obviously this is "Detective" Bob's excuse as to how he "found out" about Betty because that's who he needs the information from. It works too, because Betty immediately gives him the information he needs (I guess that badge he had looked legit!), telling him that a Bob Wiley had called, wanting to talk to his psychiatrist. When Bob tells her he needs his information too because he'll need to ask him questions, Betty says she can't give him his phone number, but she can at least give him a mailing address and that more than satisfies Bob. (Hmmm, I think Betty is going to get fired!) I understand that she can't give him the phone number, but why couldn't she just call Dr. Marvin herself (like she did in the scene two minutes earlier!), explain the situation, and hand over the phone to "the detective"? And if this was really legit and a patient of Dr. Marvin's had killed them self, I'm sure he would rather deal with it over the phone then having the cops come to his vacation home. But I digress.

So Bob takes a bus to New Hampshire and the town the Marvins are vacationing in must be the smallest town in the world because when Bob steps off the bus and starts calling Dr. Marvin's name, the whole family is coming out of a grocery store that is right where Bob is. Leo is surprised to see Bob because he thought he was dead (Betty called him to tell him about Bob). It's obvious Bob has no concept of personal boundaries and at this point I'm thinking they could have easily gone the horror/thriller route. This movie is the comedic version of Cape Fear (which also came out the same year). While both scenarios are my worst nightmare, I'd rather have annoying Bill Murray stalking me than scary Robert De Niro!

Leo is furious when he sees Bob and tells him he needs to get back on the bus and go back to New York. Bob starts freaking out and Leo makes a deal with him that he'll have a quick session with him in two hours, then he has to go back. Yeah, things don't go exactly as Leo plans! When he tells Bob to take a vacation of his own, Bob decides to stay and take his vacation at Lake Winnipesaukee as well. Leo's family does not help matters at all. They seem to encourage Bob to stay and are overly friendly to him. I don't have an issue with them being nice to Bob, but it seems they go out of their way to include him. For example, Bob's teen daughter, Anna (Kathryn Erbe) decides to take Bob sailing with her friends. Then he gets involved with helping Leo's young son, Sigmund (Charlie Korsmo) overcome his fear of diving. Leo's wife, Faye (Julie Hagerty) invites Bob to dinner. This is actually a pretty funny scene and one I remember where every time Bob eats something, he goes, "Mmm, mmm, MMMM!" He literally does it after every bite he takes. It's really annoying, but also really funny. His family should have known better and not interact with a patient of Leo's. At this point, I am 100% on Dr. Marvin's side.

There's a big rain storm the night Bob has dinner with them and Leo is in a rush to get him out because the next morning Good Morning, America is due to arrive and do a live interview (I understand why they want it live for the context of the movie, but a piece like this on GMA would never be live; they would have recorded it in advance). They're going to be there at seven, which doesn't make any sense. Doesn't GMA start at seven? So if they were doing a live story at Dr. Marvin's vacation home, wouldn't they arrive much earlier for time to set up? Unless they were going to do the story at eight. Who knows. I'm probably putting too much though in this, anyway.

So Bob spends the night (and sleeps in the same room as twelve-year-old Sigmund which seems highly inappropriate) and while Leo is trying to get him out of the house before GMA arrives, it does't work. (Of course it doesn't!) In fact, when one of the producers finds out that Bob is a patient of Dr. Marvin's, she wants Bob to stay and be part of the interview. By this time, you can almost see the steam coming out of Leo's ears. Right away we see why the show is aired live; otherwise we wouldn't see Bob having a panic attack on live TV! When he recovers, the hosts asks him how long he's been a patient of Dr. Marvin's, and he replies, "Three or four days." He claims that Dr. Marvin's book (the reason they're there to interview Leo in the first place) has been helping him, despite only being a patient of his for a few days! Bob ends up taking over the interview, even introducing the other Marvins.

Leo tricks Bob and drives him to psychiatric ward where the director tells him that she can only hold him for 24 hours, then she will need staff corroboration. Leo is not worried in the slightest, because he knows that they will see just how crazy and erratic Bob is, but Bob seems perfectly normal to the staff, telling jokes and talking easily and he is released. This is around the time the movie turns really dark. Since whatever he does to try to get rid of Bob doesn't work, Leo now turns into a murderer. Or at least an attempted murderer since his plan doesn't work. (Probably for the best for everyone). Taking Bob by gunpoint, he leads him into the woods where he straps twenty pounds of explosives to him, both of which he stole from a store (I told you it gets dark!). Bob thinks this is all part of Dr. Marvin's therapy and after Leo leaves after he sets a timer for ten minutes, he is talking it out to himself, thinking the ropes tied around him refer to the emotional knot he has inside himself and if he doesn't untie it, he will explode, hence the explosives. He manages to untie himself, and proud of himself, he walks back to the Marvin's home.

While Leo and Bob were gone, Leo's family had been looking for him and he happily reunites with them, telling them they won't have to ever worry about Bob again. But, surprise! Here comes Bob! Leo's screaming, "No! No!" He's not wearing the explosives anymore and tells Leo that he freed himself from the ropes. Leo asks him where the bags he was wearing are and not even five seconds after Bob tells him they're in the house, we see the house blow up. And it was a nice house. Luckily nobody was inside of it!

The movie ends with Leo in a catatonic state and the family is afraid he will always be this way, but when Bob marries Leo's sister, Lily (who he met at Leo's birthday party....guess they hit it off pretty well if they're getting married so quickly) and during the wedding when the priest asks if anybody objects to this union, Leo stands up from his wheelchair (wearing a robe...they couldn't put him in a suit? I know he's catatonic, but still...) and yells, "NOOOO!" His family, which includes Bob now, are all excited that he's back and can now communicate again.

It almost felt like they didn't know how to end the movie. To be honest, I was surprised that Faye decided to stay with Leo after he tried to murder a man. I feel like that would be a deal breaker! 

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