Patrick Malahide as Dr. Melrose in Heaven

Dr. Melrose: A Study in Evil

Evil yet fetching.

Pure evil.

Patrick Malahide played the villainous Dr. Melrose in Heaven, a 1998 New Zealand / USA co-production.   And I do mean villainous.  He isn’t at all sympathetic.  I often sympathize a bit with Patrick Malahide’s villainous characters, but this one is dreadful.  He is, however, very well played.  Mr. Malahide’s execution is perfect and Dr. Melrose is every bit as evil as he needs to be.

Quick Plot Overview

Long lashes for a villain.

Long lashes for a villain.

Robert Marling (Martin Donavon) is a gambling addicted architect going through a custody battle with his ex-wife Jennifer (Joanna Going).  She is having an affair with his psychiatrist Dr. Melrose.  Marling is hired by his friend Stanner (Richard Schiff) to renovate his strip club The Paradise which  features transgender dancers.  One of the dancers, Heaven (Danny Edwards), strikes up a rapport with Marling.  She is able to see the future which comes to her in the form of incredibly painful migraine-like attacks and helps him win money with her foresight.  Heaven is also a patient of Dr. Melrose’s, and he uses her prophesies for his own gain.  Specifically, he learns that Marling will win a huge amount of money, and Dr. Melrose uses that  knowledge to manipulate Jennifer.

Not a Doting Dad

I have my son with me until 6, then he goes back to his mother..

“I have my son with me until 6, then he goes back to his mother at 7.”  Classy way to set a date.

Dr. Melrose makes his first appearance when he picks up his son after school.  Jennifer Marling is there also picking up her son Sean.  Dr. Melrose greets her saying that his son goes back to his mother at seven.  That is his not-so-subtle way of telling Jennifer they can be together after that time.  She repeats seven and it would seem a date is set, “seven it is,” says Melrose.  Sean is a better judge of character than his mother; when Dr. Melrose greets him, Sean just ignores him sitting silently despite being friends with Melrose’s son.

Look at me...Classy way to set a date.

“Look at me.”

Dr. Melrose and Jennifer are on their date in a fancy restaurant where a small group plays Bach chamber music.  Melrose isn’t a fan, “I hate this place, I don’t know why we come here.”  He is given a plate with a cornish hen which he tears apart and eats with his fingers.  I think that is meant to tell us something about his personality, actually.   Jennifer thinks she is pushing to hard on the terms of the divorce settlement.  Robert is broke, so it seems rather pointless to try and get money he doesn’t have.

"How?" Heaven: "Because I will help him."

“How?” Heaven: “Because I will help him.”

But, Dr. Melrose knows better.  “Look at me, soon he will be getting a huge windfall.  You’ll thank me.”  Jennifer: “How do you know this?”

He knows because Heaven tells him during one of her sessions.   She also reveals that Robert will win because she helps him.  “Why?”  “Because he saved me.”

Not a Good Friend Either

"Why don't you tell me what it is first?"

“Why don’t you tell me what it is first?”

Robert doesn’t know about the affair and thinks he can trust the doctor.  He calls him asking for a favor.  Melrose is so smooth, “well of course, but why don’t you tell me what it is first.”   The scene alternates between Robert asking Dr. Melrose to write a letter saying that he no longer has a gambling problem and Melrose telling Jennifer all about the conversation.  “You, my dear, are going to love this,” he tells her.  He is enjoying himself.

Plans on taking advantage of his pain.

Plans on taking advantage of his pain.

Robert tells Melrose that Jennifer is trying to get money he doesn’t have and that she wants sole custody of Sean.  She is claiming that Robert is an unfit parent because of his gambling.  Robert asks Melrose to write a letter telling them that he no longer gambles and to tell them how she slept around during their marriage, “Christ, we both came to you for counseling when we were together, you know her.”  He knows her a lot better than Robert realizes.  And it is clear from his facial expressions that Melrose is rather amused by Robert’s plight but promises to help Robert.

"Have some faith, I got him on tape."

“Have some faith, I got him on tape.”

Jennifer is angry about that last bit, but Melrose has a plan.  He tells her that he taped Robert’s phone call.  He tapes all his phone calls.  Jennifer is worried that he’s taping her.  “Well, of course not,” he says while looking at the active recording tape, “you think I want a record of me talking to a patient’s wife, especially one who has multiple orgasms.”  Yeah, he taped that.

Robert goes to Sean’s school and picks him up during class.  The teacher is reluctant and would like to call Jennifer first, but Robert says that Jennifer has been in an accident.  So, the teacher lets Sean go.

And He’s a Horrible Therapist

Awww, and big blue eyes too. Pity he's bad.

Awww, big blue eyes. Pity he’s bad.

Meanwhile, Heaven is having a session with Dr. Melrose.  He is clicking a pen repeatedly and Heaven asks him not to do that.  Being a sadist, he clicks it a bit more, “Would you like me to stop?”  Finally he stops and tries to get more information on Robert’s fortune.  But, the light outside is bothering Heaven, a clear sign a migraine is coming on.  One does and she passes out on the couch.

He looks soooo concerned.

He looks soooo concerned.

Melrose gives a very predatory look, the dark lighting enhancing his blue eyes remarkably, and moves towards her.  He tries to find out what she sees, but she is out of it.  He takes that opportunity to move his hand up her leg, but before he can get far the phone rings.  It is Jennifer telling him that Robert has taken Sean.

Heaven is saved by the phone ringing.

Heaven is saved by the phone ringing.

Melrose is angry at being interupted and tells Jennifer she needs to calm down and says she is being irrational.  At that moment, Robert and Sean walk in on Jennifer, so she hangs up the phone.

Heaven comes to and Melrose asks what she saw, “I saw you.”  He acts surprised, “Me?”  She turns the tables on him saying she knows that he wants her.

Danger Alert

"Great floor show.  How was dinner?"

“Great floor show. How was dinner?”

So, Sean is fine.  Robert just wanted to let him know he loves him despite what Jennifer might say.  Robert and Jennifer have dinner and when they go back to her place it seems they are reconnecting.  Well, that is until Jennifer says that Robert has to be gone by morning.  He angrily leaves, slamming the door behind him.

Suddenly a light starts clicking on and off.  It is Melrose.  He was there all the time.  “Great floor show.  How was dinner?”  His clicking the lights harkens back to the pen scene.  Jennifer seems more annoyed than anything which struck me as odd.  You’d think she’d be horrified to find him there.  It is a very creepy and unsettling scene.

 

Melrose’s World Falls Apart

Where did that bandage come from?

Where did that bandage come from?

Robert has to meet Jennifer’s lawyer.  She now has Melrose there to talk about Robert’s gambling addiction.  Melrose looks a little different in this scene because he has a plastic bandage on his cheek.  Heaven knows exactly what is going to happen at the meeting and gives Robert some tapes.

"....He's a devil."

“….He’s a devil.”

There is a fantastic moment where Heaven is warning Robert about Melrose, “The man she’s with..you know him…I know him…he’s evil.  She doesn’t know it, yet, but he is.  He’s a devil” As she is speaking the camera focuses on Melrose looking decidedly evil indeed.  It is a really well executed scene and I just love the way it looks.

Jennifer leaves him.

Realizing it is all over.

Anyway, the tapes are sound recordings of Melrose molesting his patients during  hypnotherapy sessions.  Phone calls weren’t the only things he recorded.  We find out what happened to Heaven during that last therapy session and why he has a bandage on his cheek.  When Heaven, who is transgender, dared him to find out what was in her underwear he attacked her and tried to assault her.  She whacked him on the face with his telephone, knocking him out.  It is a brutal scene.

"I really need you to get me those tapes"

“I really need you to get me those tapes”

Jennifer is done with Melrose for good but, he enters her home demanding she give him the tapes.  He threatens to hurt her badly, but she smacks him on the face.  He then breaks down and starts crying, “I’m finished…please?”  She tells him to get out, he looks furious for a brief moment, but then leaves.

Closes his eyes and crashes...

Closes his eyes and …

Finally, we see him driving his car and he looks relaxed.  He hits the accelerator and closes his eyes and then crashes.  It is a hideous scene with lots of blood.  It seems he just gave up in the end.  A rather ignominious ending but fitting.

 

Wrap-Up

The chandelier and ceiling give it a dizzying effect.

Melrose looking scary.  The chandelier and ceiling give it a dizzying effect.

I like the way Heaven’s premonitions develop into facts and the blending of timelines is very well done.  The title character Heaven is excellent and very likable.  Karl Urban, who I didn’t mention above, plays a character called Sweeper.  He cares for Heaven deeply, and he is really good.  I also like Robert Marling.  I can’t say I “like” Dr. Melrose, but Patrick Malahide did an excellent job portraying him as a completely unsympathetic wretched man.   He starts out smooth and sly but ends up a complete wreck.

However it is not a perfect film.  The language was just too much, in my opinion, particularly from Stanner who is a bigger villain than Melrose.  Every other word out of Stanner’s mouth was an expletive and it didn’t feel natural to me at all.  I don’t think I’m overly prudish about such things, but Stanner was a weak point for me which is bad because he had a huge role.  It is also very violent.  While the violence is understandable in the context of the film it was still jarring.

Points out their children are always the last to leave.

Pretty much his most gentle moment in the whole film.

Personally, I prefer Mr. Malahide’s more gentle films such as A Month in the Country and  A Man of No Importance.  But, it was interesting to see him in a challenging and different film like Heaven.

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