Picks and Pans Review: Breast Men

updated 12/15/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/15/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

HBO (Sat. Dec. 13, 9 p.m. ET)

A-

There's a fine line between outrageous satire and atrocious taste, and Breast Men walks it with assurance. Described in a wry prefatory note as "basically a true story, slightly augmented," the film spans 30 years as it follows the boom-and-bust fortunes of two fictional pioneers in breast-implant surgery. David Schwimmer (Friends) plays a resident at a Houston hospital who has a fertile mind but a nerdy manner. Chris Cooper (Lone Star) is an established plastic surgeon who treats Schwimmer with disdain—until the younger man sells him on breast enlargement as the next big thing. Their partnership proves hugely lucrative before breaking up in an ego clash. When silicone suddenly becomes a dirty word, and women panic over the reportedly harmful effects of breast implants, Cooper and Schwimmer sullenly agree on one thing: their golf games are suffering.

John Stockwell's script is rough on doctors, both greedy groundbreakers and stodgy traditionalists. Nor does it spare the patients, who flock to the surgeons' waiting rooms out of vanity, insecurity and a spirit of mammary competition. But the heart of the story is Schwimmer's personal rollercoaster ride, from sniffing cocaine off the breast of a satisfied customer to examining varicose veins in a shabby strip-mall office. It's a medical Boogie Nights, slightly marred by an ill-advised slam-bang ending.

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