The New Movie “Shrink” Promises to be Interesting if Nothing Else

shrinkLike smog settling over Los Angeles, a creeping sense of anomie haunts
the Hollywood power players and parasites sidling nervously through
“Shrink,” a portrait of a disenchanted therapist to the stars and his
clientele.

Directed by Jonas Pate from a screenplay by Thomas Moffett, based on a
story by Henry Rearden, this dissection of a soul-sick community of self-
medicating actors, writers and agents would like to think of itself as a
contemporary “Play It as It Lays,” only kinder and gentler.

“Shrink” doesn’t peer into the abyss as fixedly as “Play It as It Lays,”
the 1970 Joan Didion novel or its screen adaptation by the director
Frank Perry (for which Ms. Didion wrote the screenplay with John Gregory
Dunne).

Nor does it have the ruthless satiric thrust of Robert Altman’s
“Player,” or the pungent gallows humor of a Bruce Wagner novel.

But its central character, Dr. Henry Carter (Kevin Spacey), is afflicted
with the same metaphysical malaise that engulfed Ms. Didion’s characters.

A widower whose wife recently committed suicide for reasons left
unspecified, Carter is a best-selling author of pop psychology books who
has grown to believe that he can’t fix people and that his profession is
useless.

No actor is better than Mr. Spacey at conveying a bone-deep cynicism, in
his case usually accompanied by a malicious, needling wit.

But Carter, pacified on marijuana, booze and cigarettes, doesn’t have
the leftover energy to be nasty.

Only once in the movie, when his father (Robert Loggia) stages an
intervention, does he snap out of his lethargy long enough to get on his
high horse and angrily refuse treatment.

The doctor’s clients, many of whom are professionally interconnected,
make up an unglamorous composite picture of players and hopefuls in the
Southern California entertainment axis.

The most vivid are Patrick (Dallas Roberts), a superagent and
hypochondriacal worrywart suffering from extreme obsessive-compulsive
disorder; and Jack (an uncredited Robin Williams), an alcoholic movie
star who frets about his possible sexual addiction while refusing to
acknowledge his drinking problem.

Mr. Roberts’s character gets off some nifty zingers; in one he sneers
that he hasn’t seen a movie since “Titanic,” which had a “spoiler alert
— the boat sinks.” Nostalgically recalling his premarital wild days, Mr.
Williams’s character draws from an endless storehouse of amusingly
raunchy euphemisms.

Other characters, none of whom is as sharply drawn, include Patrick’s
perky, unmarried assistant, Daisy (Pell James), who is pregnant and
dreams of being a producer; Shamus (Jack Huston), a self-loathing Irish
movie star whose careless mixing of pharmaceuticals catches up with him;
and Kate (Saffron Burrows), a beautiful actress with a cheating husband,
coming to grips with the fact that she is no longer 27 in a youth-
obsessed profession.

These characters are mostly too sketchy and their connections too
contrived for “Shrink” to jell as an incisive ensemble piece.

But the atmospheric cinematography (by Lukas Ettlin) and hovering music
(by Brian Reitzell and Ken Andrews) lend “Shrink” a queasy downbeat mood.

Mr. Spacey’s therapist, bearded, bleary-eyed and exuding dejection, is
not someone you would recommend to a friend seeking help. If we really
knew our therapists’ closely guarded personal stories, whom would we trust?

(originally printed in New York Post Movie Reviews)

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~ by freudtv on July 26, 2009.

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