Friday, July 24, 2009

Shrink (Roadside Attractions)

By Harry Forbes

This is a dark and, for the most part, dreary ensemble drama in the “Crash” vein, with several disparate characters whose lives ultimately intertwine. Nearly all of them are unlikable, though by the redemptive ending, they are considerably less so, and we can, at least, view them compassionately.

Director Jonas Pate’s adaptation of Henry Reardon’s story (script by Thomas Moffett) centers on the titular psychiatrist well played by a grizzled, haggard-looking Kevin Spacey. Dr. Henry Carter is in serious need of counseling himself, as he’s become a morose, pot-smoking addict, after the suicide death of his wife. All of this is highly ironic in light of his latest book, a bestseller on “Happiness.”

Henry’s father Robert (Robert Loggia) is also a therapist and, after a family intervention fails, the elder Carter endeavors to counsel his son.

The professional advice comes to naught, but the father insists Henry take on pro bono client Jemma, a bright black teenager who’s having trouble in school after the suicide death of her mother. Jemma’s only solace comes from the old movies at a local revival house. Jemma is winningly played by 14-year-old Keke Palmer, who at age 11, starred in the delightful “Akeelah and the Bee.”

Henry’s other clients include high strung talent agent Patrick (Dallas Roberts), actress Kate (Saffron Burrows) and screenplay writing hopeful Jeremy (Mark Webber) who is loosely related to Henry by marriage. There’s also an unbilled Robin Williams as Jack Holden, another of Henry’s patients, an alcoholic sex addict and over-the-hill actor.

Other characters include Henry’s drug dealer buddy Jesus (Jesse Plemons), a dissolute Irish film star Shamus (Jack Huston), and Patrick’s executive secretary Daisy (Pell James), a pregnant surrogate mother with producing aspirations who falls for Jeremy when he shows up at her office to interest Patrick in his script. Gore Vidal has a cameo as a talk show host interviewing Henry who promptly has an on-camera meltdown.

Moffet’s talky and expletive-laden dialogue sounds mostly stagy and false, and the narrative is sometimes confusing. The cast goes through their paces adequately. Filmed in an off-putting washed-out palate, the film, despite its feel-good wrap-up, is mostly an unrelieved downer.

(Rated R for drug content throughout and pervasive language including some sexual references) Print this post


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