Kevin Spacey is one of my favorite actors. He easily proved he can be both a supporting actor (Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for The Usual Suspects) as well as a leading actor (Academy Award for Best Actor in American Beauty). I heard about the film Shrink via his twitter account and became interested.
The film follows Dr. Henry Carter, a shrink for many high powered and world renowned members of the film industry, including an alcoholic actor (Robin Williams), a narcissistic, idiosyncratic talent agent (Dallas Roberts), and a middle-aged actress (Saffron Burrows) dealing with a fading career as well as a cheating husband.
Carter smokes a large amount of marijuana to help him cope with the loss of his wife. In an opening scene, Carter is walking up the stairs when his receptionist tells him his book "'Happiness Now' is number seven on the New York Times list". He immediately turns around and goes outside to smoke a joint. This gives us the feel of just how depressed he is.
The film shows the different troubles his clients are going through. Jack (Williams) is in denial about his drinking problem. When Carter asks him about changing his appointment to five, Jack replies "Five's when I start drinking." He instead thinks he's a sex-addict wanting to cheat on his wife, going so far as to ask Carter's permission. I find it brave for Williams to take on such a role considering he and his wife divorced over her inability to trust him.
Kate's (Burrows) life is fading away behind her obvious aging and her cheating rockstar husband. Both cause her a great deal of trouble she flings at Carter during their weekly sessions filled with flirting and innuendos.
Patrick (Roberts) believes the world is going to end and is terrified of germs and other people. He is very high He tries to blame it on a past addiction to cocaine instead of Carter's suggestion of a mid-life crisis.
But my favorite character in the movie and perhaps its primary redeeming factor is Jemma, beautifully portrayed by teenage actress Keke Palmer. Jemma is a girl with a dark past and has trouble moving forward. She has a great interest in movies and is intrigued by all the celebrities Carter sees. After she punches out a window, Carter takes on her case pro bono.
The characters are all tied together in an interesting "Six Degrees of Separation" system. Carter treats Jack, who stars in a movie with actor Shamus, whose agent is Patrick whose other client is Kate who also sees Carter.
The writing behind the film is decent. The story is a bit of a downer, no doubt about that, but at the same time you realize that the person you go to talk to about your problems also has problems of his own. The fact that all the main characters all see the same doctor seems a bit exaggerated.
There are some aspects of the film I didn't like, which is the way it is in all films. I'm kind of sick of seeing Kevin Spacey portraying miserable men who escape by doing drugs. The type of character that you see over and over again in films everywhere, not just ones featuring Mr. Spacey, though you could argue he has sadly been type-casted in such roles.
All in all, it's a decent movie. The message, there is hope, is evident throughout the film, though partially over-shadowed by either cheesy dialogue or by the ensemble cast. If you're one for dramas, this is a good choice. If you're one for heartwarming tales of hope and redemption, I suggest you move on to the blockbuster section and skip over this flop. Definitely not the greatest thing ever made, but certainly an underrated film over all.
An interesting note:
One of Palmer's first films was the made for TV special "The Wool Cap", in which she starred opposite William H. Macy. She currently stars at the title character of the Nickelodian sitcom "True Jackson VP". Her acting in this film is great and outshines that of Spacey in every scene they are in. If there's one person to watch out for, it's Keke Palmer.