“Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian” (A Preview)

Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian is that rare movie that apparently has a positive representation of a therapist, in this case a real person, George Devereux, an anthropologist and psychoanalyst who in 1951 wrote a book, Reality and Dream, on which writer/director Arnaud Desplechin based his script.

Also rare in filmdom: making day to day therapy sessions between two main characters the main story.

The Sessions with Jimmy P.

Mark Adams, Screen Daily: “The pair start to spend an hour together each day, with Devereux gently probing into Jimmy’s past and allowing him to gradually talk about his attitude towards women (and his mother and sister in particular), incidents of his past and what happened to him during the war. Jimmy still veers between mental blackouts and moments of lucidity, while at the same time the relationship provides Devereux with a solid project and a much-needed sense of place.”

Matt Zoller Seitz, rogerebert.com: “…Jimmy and his analyst…form a great movie friendship, unlike any you’ve seen. Its specialness is rooted equally in the men’s culturally specific yet emotionally similar experiences (they’re both sensitive, wryly funny cultural outsiders) and in the old-school Freudian ‘talking cure’ that they pursue together.”

The Patient, Jimmy Piccard (Benicio Del Toro)

He’s a Native American Blackfoot World War II veteran who sustained a head injury that’s been healed—or has it? This man’s experiencing a myriad of symptoms that include severe headaches, dizziness, hearing loss, temporary blindness, and recurring nightmares. It’s in the Topeka Military Hospital in Kansas in 1948 that Jimmy P. gets referred to Devereux due to his specialization in Native American culture.

Deborah Young, Hollywood Reporter:

…Happily, breaking another tedious film cliché, he doesn’t resist his doctor in the least and analysis rolls on briskly. Yes, there’s a traumatic Oedipal moment when little Jimmy sees his recently widowed mother in bed with another man, and on another occasion he gets a thrashing after being caught playing in the hay with a little girl. Then there’s the war and the accident in which he suffered a severe head injury. But ultimately, his greatest trauma involves his own mistreatment of his mistress and the daughter she bore him. Once that guilt is peeled away, a whole other level opens up of repressed anger over the prejudice and discrimination he is subject to as a Native American – another source of his blinding headaches.

The Shrink, George Devereux (Mathieu Amalric)

Deborah YoungHollywood Reporter: “…(H)e’s the analyst everyone dreams of – penetrating, sympathetic, every word a direct hit. For once the dreary, cinematically overused drama of transference takes a back seat to pure intellectual detective work as he sets up a relaxed dialogue with his patient.”

Selected Reviews

Mark Adams, Screen Daily: “Each is escaping aspects of their past, and the relationship turns out to be therapeutic for both men. Jimmy comes to terms with the issues that lie at the core of his problems, while Devereux relaxes into the environment, and finds a brief bit of happiness when his is visited by his married lover Madeleine (a delightful performance by Gina McKee).”

Matt PatchesHollywood Reporter: “A milestone case in the world of ethnographic psychoanalysis may not sound like fodder for great drama, but it’s all about who’s the ‘psycho’ and who’s conducting the ‘analysis.’ In the case of Jimmy P…(t)hese guys could read the phone book and make it interesting.”

Scott Foundas, Variety: …(F)ew films have focused so intently on the minutiae of psychoanalysis as Desplechin does here — an uncompromising strategy that will undoubtedly distance some viewers while drawing others further in.”

The Movie Trailer

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