Review: Shrink (2009)

Director: Jonas Pate | 104 minutes | drama, comedy | Actors: Kevin Spacey, Robin Williams, Mark Webber, Keke Palmer, Saffron Burrows, Jack Huston, Pell James, Laura Ramsey, Dallas Roberts, Robert Loggia, Gore Vidal, Jesse Plemons, Rakevet Abergel, Derek Alvarado, Ike Barinholtz, Damian Cecere, Kendall Clement, Griffin Dunne, Robert Farrior, Joel Gretsch, Sierra Aylina McClain, Mei Melançon, Troy Metcalf, Joe Nieves, Mina Olivera, Brian Palermo, Philip Pavel

Do you know “Magnolia” (1999), or “Short Cuts” (1993), or more recently: “Crash” (2004)? Virtuoso narratives that have in common that seemingly random characters are introduced interchangeably and their stories become more and more interwoven, to reach a joint denouement at the end in a thrilling finale. All three titles know, always in their own way, to speak to and move the spectator to his soul, although there were, of course, people who were less interested in it, but there were not many.

Jonas Pate, the director of “Shrink”, made a film with a similar construction. But he is not possessed with the exceptional talent of Paul Thomas Anderson, Robert Altman, or that of Paul Haggis, respectively, who, in addition to directing their (above) films, also took care of the script of their (above) films, which Pate did not. Perhaps that is why his feature film debut (he already wrote, produced and directed quite a bit for television) lacks that personal touch that made the films of the above directors so special. While his film is professionally thick, that is beyond dispute. Unlike his illustrious predecessors, however, we are moved by his film, but especially by the things that hurt anyway (loss, mourning and crying people, especially when they are grown men).

Pate has managed to get Kevin Spacey and that is nice, a credit in itself. Kevin is doing his best and is in good shape, with a wonderfully worn head. That produces beautiful pictures. But he actually has just a little too little to do, because the many other characters must also be featured. His character remains, for example, a smoking psychiatrist who has grief and is a bit too casual about it, it seems. Not that nothing changes at all, on the contrary, enough happens, but with many characters mixed up, the focus shatters and with it the involvement and the emotions. Moreover, storylines are introduced that in themselves would have provided enough material for an entire film, while we actually need all the attention for the quite fierce main theme: mourning.

It’s as if the director just didn’t go all the way. The sidelines thus seem like a diversion from the main line. It’s his first feature and it’s not bad, certainly not. He comes a long way, but it could have been better. He probably worked just a little too hard to close the story; this script is to good to be true. It’s not bad, but actually too round, some twists and turns don’t feel completely natural. It was not the acting performance and probably not even the directing, it was mainly the script. But yes, that ultimately also falls under the responsibility of the director!

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