Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Shrink: Grade C

Shrink (2009)

Kevin Spacey, Keke Palmer, Mark Webber; Director Jonas Pate.

Spacey is an L.A. psychiatrist to celebrities, but he is suffering from depression, possible alcoholism, and, it seems, drug addiction, although we only see him smoking marijuana, which does not make you depressed, and we only see him drinking occasional wine and beer, so the addiction story is not convincing. His real problem is that he is grieving over the recent suicide of his wife, although we do not see him go through much actual grieving. Mainly he just stares into space as if depressed, and makes angry, sarcastic remarks to everyone, which is not consistent with depression. So it is not clear what is up with him except he is burned out on life in a monumentally self-centered way.

One of his clients is a high school student (Palmer) who is also grieving, over her mother’s suicide. We never learn much about that situation, but over the course of the movie, each character yields enough self-defensive anger to become sort-of friends in a way reminiscent of Good Will Hunting. (Actually, Robin Williams appears as an alcoholic patient in an uncredited role, and Spacey’s dope dealer looks like Matt Damon – probably not accidents).

There is no story really, it is just various characters adrift, confused by life, searching for something. In the end, everybody conveniently finds some kind of salvation to wrap it up on a relatively happy note. Without a story and without believable characters, there is really nothing going on in this movie, but Spacey is always a joy to watch, and Keke Palmer is extremely interesting. I wanted to see a lot more of her character, and a lot less of the other deadbeat characters.

Photography has some noticeably good moments but sets and scenes are nondescript or clich├ęd. Music is appallingly bad, designed to evoke sentimental feelings, but had me reaching for the mute button. Directing is obtrusively trite. The script is terrible. No therapist could survive a week in business with the skills of Spacey’s character. So all you have left is some enjoyable acting, especially by Spacey and Palmer.

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