Friday, February 26, 2010


Sundance films always intrigue me. And, movies that include Kevin Spacey also intrigue me. Thus, I picked up Shrink and in the end, I really enjoyed it. I respect the films that Kevin Spacey selects ever since he starred in American Beauty. For those who enjoy his work, this is quite an interesting piece to view.

Shrink is about what it sounds: a psychiatrist. Kevin Spacey plays this psychiatrist, Dr. Carter, who lives in Hollywood and treats patients from movie stars to high school students. The irony lies in the fact that Dr. Carter really has his own issues--his wife killed himself, and to handle it, he smokes all the time. His friends try to intervene and stop his drug abuse, but he rejects them and tries to continue on his own path of coping.

Meanwhile, his book about happiness (which was really just a self-exploratory way of trying to cope with his depression) is selling well. The movie branches out to focus on other characters, those that Dr. Carter is helping. Their story lines connect throughout the film.

One subplot has to do with Patrick, a movie agent who deals with famous actors and actresses, two of which are treated by Carter. One is Jack, played by Robin Williams, and another is Kate, who deals with her rock star boyfriend who cheats on her. Eventually, Kate and Carter run into each other enough outside of the workplace that they start to have feelings for one another. Although this is not exclusively developed, the viewer is left with the feeling that these two will pursue a relationship, giving Carter some closure on his dark past.

Another subplot focuses on Jemma, a struggling teenager whose mother has just committed suicide. She starts skipping school and pursuing in questionable behavior; thus the school forces her to see Dr. Carter. She has a difficult time opening up to him, and they both do not realize at first that they are fighting with the same issue within themselves: losing someone to suicide and not understanding why. In the end, they both discover this secret, and they both read the suicide notes left to them together. A strong bond then forms between them.

One of the movie's bigger subplots has to do with Dr. Carter's friend Jeremy, a struggling screenwriter who was closely related to Carter's wife. He is the only friend who accepts Carter after he denies help from his addiction. Jeremy gives a screenplay to Patrick, but since he is so busy, it is intercepted by his assistant Daisy. The two of them begin to see each other after that encounter. However, Jeremy's screenplay is similar to another film that is coming out, so that piece of writing is basically useless.

Jeremy then flounders and wants to succeed. For some material, he breaks into Carter's office and steals the case file on Jemma. Interested in the dark material he finds, he befriends her and hangs out with her. He then writes a screenplay on her life. Jemma soon finds this screenplay and yells violently at Jeremy. Once Carter finds out, he starts a brutal, vicious fight with Jeremy. Now Carter must stop seeing Jemma AND his friendship with Jeremy is in question.

However, meanwhile, Daisy forwards the screenplay to Patrick, who loves it. Daisy is promoted to being a producer and will start on this film. The movie ends with Patrick, Jeremy, Carter, and Jemma in an office talking about making the film. It seems as if all loose ends are tied up.

And, since Carter recently got into a drug-induced accident and saw his life flash before his eyes, he quit smoking. He even went on live TV and denounced his book, coming clean to the world. Characters all seem to have closure.

Overall, it was a smart film. I think it is smart writing when so many subplots can tie together and eventually weave into one. We start to see characters individually and undertand their background, and then we can better understand their decisions and actions once they all come together. It's a nice build up to try to understand their motives and to see their character development.

The film also had nice themes. Sometimes we can receive help from the strangest of places, those we don't expect to help us perhaps. Sometimes they are the most unlikely candidates. People need to come to their own conclusions to find peace. It can't be shoved down their throats--it can be a self-exploratory process. But, one must confront the past and the issue in order to overcome it. Numbing the self will not help get over it; it will just prolong the internal conflict. And, one must pursue his or her passions; otherwise, won't we always wonder, what if?

Kevin Spacey engaged in some fine acting, let me tell you. His character was different from others. He wore the pain of his character on his face. He always seems to impress me, no matter what kind of film he does. Even in Fred Claus, he still was brilliant.

I can see why this film did well at Sundance. It's a good one. If you like independent films, Kevin Spacey, or are interested in psychiatry, screenwriting, or itnernal conflicts, this is a good choice. It's not the most popular film, but some of the more popular films are quite boring and are just too over-the-top blockbuster predictable garbage. Yup, over-the-top blockbuster predictable garbage.

That's why I most enjoy indie films, Sundance films, the step right beneath big blockbusters. Focus Films. You get the picture. Any recommendations if I like these kinds of films for future views?

So what do you think of Shrink?

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