ShrinkMPAA Rating: R for drug content throughout, and pervasive language including some sexual references.
Runtime: 104 mins.
Director: Jonas Pate
Writer: Thomas Moffett
Cast: Kevin Spacey; Robin Williams; Gore Vidal ... complete cast
Tagline: The doctor is out.
Genre: Drama
Memorable Quote: "I'm just trying to sell smoke man. It's not that serious." ... more quotes
Release Date: July 31, 2009
DVD Release Date: May 10, 2010.
Distributor: Roadside Attractions

2 stars

{googleAds}There's probably a deliciously sordid story to be told about Tinseltown psychiatrists and the patients they see. After all, the city without a soul has been spawning impenitent zombies looking for someone else to cure their ills for decades. And certainly the idea of a shrink fighting off a mental breakdown should offer up at least as much ironic fun as did mob boss Tony Soprano seeking the advice of a mental professional in HBO's The Sopranos. So just how does Shrink miss so badly in the theme-rich environment of celebrity narcissism, suicide, drug abuse, and mental depression? It all probably looked and sounded good on paper, but somewhere between pitch and execution, the whole idea (flimsily penned by Thomas Moffet) just falls apart in the hands of overwhelmed director Jonas Pate (TV's Friday Night Lights.)

ShrinkFollowing the formula of Crash, 21 Grams and several other recent films, Shrink tracks and eventually interlocks the seemingly disparate stories of a group of Angelinos all unknowingly circling the same psychiatrist, Dr. Henry Carter (Kevin Spacey). There's the high-powered germaphobic talent agent (Dallas Roberts) and his assistant (Pell James) who wants to produce her first movie; the movie star (Saffron Burrows) with marital problems; Jeremy (Mark Webber) a would-be screenwriter dealing with self-esteem issues; wanna-be director Jemma (Keke Palmer); and Shamus (Jack Huston), a substance-abusing Irish actor looking to be taken seriously. See the common trait? It's even less cleverly disguised in the film.

What's remarkable in a film that seems to have lost the command of its director is that the acting is actually quite strong. Kevin Spacey is mostly solid as the basket case of a doctor smoking and drinking his way through the lingering effects of having recently lost his wife to suicide. Even though we feel his character's pain and are OK with wallowing along in his misery, (mostly for the sake of seeing that his peaked patients are looked after), Spacey only occasionally makes us genuinely care for Dr. Carter's well-being. Actually, it's just that it's a bit difficult to muster up much sympathy for a character who smokes so much weed. Seriously folks, this guy could toke Cheech and Chong under the table. Dr. Carter's drug dealer, Jesus (Jesse Plemons), who doubles as his mock-therapist, actually becomes one of the film's most loveable characters. He seems to be the most stable character in the entire ensemble when he quips, â"I just sell smoke man. It's not that serious." By the way, it's never a good side when an audience roots for the drug dealer.

The first two acts of Shrink are just about the most miserably depressing 80 minutes you're likely to experience in a film (think back to Nic Cage's alcoholic Leaving Las Vegas character drinking beer at the bottom of the swimming pool), but just when things seem they can get no lower for Dr. Carter and his patients, the music suddenly (and predictably) swells, joints are flushed down the toilet, and the final resolution falls into place. But the magic we felt with Haggis's Crash, as the realization began to set in, is glaringly absent... probably because we had already begun wrapping things up thirty minutes prior. It's that predictable and that lifeless.

The story of a Hollywood shrink and his quasi-celebrity patients in the midst of a Hollywood-style breakdown should offer up a juicy meatball of weighty subject matter and thematic opportunities. But instead of tackling any issues head on, Pate (with his overly-shaky camera in hand) and Moffet, take them on with all the authority of a feather.