January 25, 2009 / 10:42 PM / 10 years ago

"Shrink" takes obvious swipes at Hollywood

PARK CITY, Utah (Hollywood Reporter) - If a movie is called “Shrink,” you know the psychiatrist in question is going to be a) crazy or b) spectacularly unprofessional or c) loaded with severely damaged, drug-addled patients.

Actor Kevin Spacey poses for a portrait while promoting the film "Shrink" during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 22, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Director Jonas Pate goes for d) all of the above.

Actually, “Shrink” does even better than that. Since Kevin Spacey’s Dr. Henry Carter is the “shrink to the stars,” you get all those easy potshots at nasty, insecure Hollywood types. Watching this movie is like reading a supermarket tabloid — where, in fact, one character sees an apparently accurate report of her deteriorating marriage.

There is always room in the market for another slanted take on the mental health profession and film industry. You do wish Pate and writer Thomas Moffett had gone for more wit given the outlandishness of the melodrama. It would be more fun to laugh at this than take it seriously.

Spacey could recite the Park City phone directory and you’d give him your rapt attention. So it is fun to watch his ruined shrink — a serious pothead with no concern for his shambling appearance or log-cabin beard — stumble through each day with a caseload of crazies.

First up there’s a germophobic, anal-retentive, obsessive-compulsive high-powered talent agent played by Dallas Roberts. He is designed to remind you of so many top agents it isn’t funny. (Actually, it isn’t very funny.)

Then there’s Saffron Burrows’ “aging” actress, looking better than ever but supposedly suffering from limited roles because she goes to a doctor, not a pediatrician. Her marriage has been a wreck ever since her husband discovered his “narcissistic” side. (That word has to be explained to him.)

Mark Webber’s screenwriter-cum-gardener/car valet can’t get anyone to read his script other than Roberts’ long-suffering, pregnant assistant (Pell James). She, in time-honored tradition, thinks Webber’s a brilliant writer, but her boss never reads anything or even sees movies. (Webber is either the shrink’s client or a weird sort of relative — he refers to the psychiatrist as his “godmother.”)

Robin Williams’ character drops by to treat his sex addiction, but Carter thinks he’s really an alcoholic. (The good news there is that he only has to give up one obsession.)

The shrink’s father (Robert Loggia) forces a pro bono case, an inner-city high-schooler (Keke Palmer), on his troubled son. Since her mother and his son’s wife both committed suicide, he hopes they might cure each other. This plot device is quite obvious, yet the writer forces Spacey to point it out.

The circle of these loonies draws in others, such as a drugged-out film director (Jack Huston) and an actress (Laura Ramsey) cheerfully sleeping her way to the top.

The film relies on all sorts of coincidental meetings and accidents for its narrative drive. To wit: The screenwriter steals the schoolgirl’s chart from the shrink, garners enough material for a brilliant script he writes in a couple of days, gives it to the agent’s assistant (now his girlfriend), who hands it to the agent, who then drops it on the sidewalk where the schoolgirl picks it up and learns of her betrayal. Oh, yes, and a few scenes later the project heads into production with the assistant as its producer.

There really was a much better comedy here than melodrama.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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