We all assume that although we might not know what the hell is going on around us – somebody does. If you ain’t sure who the hell you are, or what the world means, then there’s a number to call, or a guy in the know to visit. Using Hollywood as its backdrop and unstable psychiatrist to the stars Henry Carter (Kevin Spacey) as a centre point, Shrink emphatically shows that this simply isn’t the case.
A cocaine-smeared mirror is effectively turned upon the products of fame and fortune in America.
Despite having written books and recorded CDs on ways to be happy, Henry Carter is far from such an emotional state. Cannabis dependent and unable to sleep in his own bed, he is blighted by the death of his wife. Ironically, he has an A-list clientele with similar problems. An insecure young writer (Mark Webber), a comically obsessive-compulsive superagent (Dallas Roberts), and drug abuser Shamus all seek answers with this fragile but apparently successful man.
As their lives intertwine coming in and out of Carter’s revolving doors, an unexpected patient from outside Hollywood begins to force the stubborn shrink to face his problems. Unlike the celebrities he is used to, Jemma serves as a bolshie foil to him. She has a love of movies, a side to life that Carter has become bored with mopping up, and a similar experience that has also changed her life. This encounter could either ruin Carter or be the cathartic experience he needs.
To Shrink’s credit, we are given a candid account of life behind films and celebrities. You can imagine many people watching, and even the cast in it (take, for example, the boozy character played by Robin Williams) see themselves in the stereotypical renderings onscreen. There are good performances, especially from Kevin Spacey and the young girl playing Jemma, meaning, although caricatures, the characters are believable enough to the extent that we feel like we have an inside insight into their lives. I also felt the central idea, of the search for a meaning and control in life was a genuine and well-presented one.
However, the plot was too twee and flaky to make this film great. To ensure Shrink predictably comes full-circle, and to impress the narrative the director wants, ideas are rushed and plot developments are forced. Despite achieving a realism relating to the problems of its cast, this is somewhat tarnished by some implausible meetings and twists to ensure a perfect finale.
Indeed, we can all gain something from paying a visit to this Shrink, but just don’t go hoping this film escapes the Hollywood addiction of dubious plot and hackneyed script.