Kevin Spacey, good cast and seriocomic story make Shrink worthy of an appointment
By Jimmy Gillman
The always intriguing Kevin Spacey is tailor made for the title role in Shrink, a moving and frequently funny seriocomedy about a pot-smoking psychiatrist to the Hollywood elite who’s suffering a crisis of conscience after the death of his wife.
Shrink, a Sundance Film Festival favorite, is a typical but well done ensemble piece with well-drawn characters, each with a compelling story. Those stories overlap and eventually converge into a singular theme of catharsis, achieved with minimum contrivance and the occasional melodramatics.
Most of the characters are the shrink’s patients, including a big time movie producer (a scene stealing Dallas Roberts) whose obsessive compulsive disorder is the source of a steady stream of edgy humor; a characterization that turns out to be the real backbone of the film. And like other characters in Shrink, there’s more to this producer than meets the eye.
The same is true of the skrink’s confidant, Jeremy (Mark Webber), the only member of his circle of family and friends with whom he’s stayed in touch. He’s an unsuccessful but talented writer struggling to find a subject for the screenplay he knows he’s been destined to write.
Then there’s Jemma (Keke Palmer of Akeelah and the Bee fame), a troubled high school student whose mother recently died. She’s been ordered by school authorities to speak with a psychiatrist. When the doctor she’s assigned to turns out to be the shrink’s father, he decides to refer the girl to his son in the hope their sessions will help pull him out of his emotional stupor.
An unbilled Robin Williams adds spice as an aging movie star who’s certain he’s addicted to sex despite the shrink’s best efforts to convince him the real problem is alcoholism. Others include the producer’s pregnant Girl Friday (who figures into the overall plot) and a glamorous Hollywood couple whose marriage is on the rocks—he’s younger and a country rock star, she a popular actress in her later 30s (old by Tinseltown standards) worried about a fading career.
With the table set, director Jon Pate serves up a compelling meal, not with a whole lot of originality (and a bit sloppily edited), but with an emotional surefootedness that lends a great deal of authenticity to the proceedings. There are some arresting visual qualities also at work, and while Shrink is not a grandiose or profound effort, it’s an earnest and entertaining film with a satisfying payoff.