Nov 17

“The Shrink Next Door”: Wrong Therapist

When it comes to finding the wrong therapist, there’s “wrong” as in not the best match, and then there’s “wrong” as in unethical and/or criminal behavior on the part of the shrink. It’s the latter that is the theme of the new fact-based Apple TV+ mini-series The Shrink Next Door starring Paul Rudd as Dr. Isaac (Ike) Herschkopf and Will Ferrell as Marty Markowitz, the client who had the misfortune in real life of choosing this psychiatrist. Despite the comedic talents of these stars, this is not really a comedy but a tragicomedy.

Another key character is Marty’s sister Phyllis (Kathryn Hahn), who’s apparently responsible for encouraging Marty to seek therapy but who then becomes estranged from Marty because of Dr. Ike’s control.

The Truth Behind The Shrink Next Door

Herschkopf, per Dave Itzkoff, New York Times, was ultimately “ordered in April to surrender his license to practice in New York after a committee convened by the State Health Department found him guilty of multiple professional violations” against not only Markowitz but others too.

How bad was it from Markowitz’s point of view? Kai Green, Parade, reports that he told the New York Post a couple years ago that he’d felt like he was in a cult. “He took over my life very quickly…It was one ethical violation after another.”

Markowitz had no reason to suspect Dr. Ike would be like this; he was well-known on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, counting Gwyneth Paltrow and Courtney Love as two of his clients. Paltrow even attended a party at Markowitz’s home, reportedly. The story came to light when Bloomberg columnist Joe Nocera moved to the Hamptons and was invited to a barbecue at the house next door by someone who he thought was the gardener. Meeting the host, ‘Dr. Ike,’ Nocera was invited back for another get-together, where the good doctor insisted on having a picture of Nocera to add to his pictures of celebrities like Brooke Shields and OJ Simpson. However, Nocera ultimately discovered that the man he thought was the gardener, Martin Markowitz, was the actual homeowner—even though Dr. Ike acted like he owned the place. And that’s just the beginning of the shocking truths Nocera ultimately came to learn about the ‘shrink next door.’

Nocera went on to do a podcast about this true story. Additional information about Markowitz’s case has been reported by Debra Nussbaum Cohen, Forward.com:

New York State’s Department of Health, in its decision, found 16 specifications of professional misconduct – from fraudulence to gross negligence and gross incompetence as well as exercising undue influence and moral unfitness. The decision was based on records and testimony from three of Herschkopf’s patients. Markowitz is ‘Patient A…’

Markowitz says that he is ‘much happier now’ than when he was under Herschkopf’s care. ‘It’s my 40-year ordeal. It was 29 years under his power and 11 years seeking justice. I finally got it.’ What matters most is that ‘I got justice. That’s what I wanted.’

The TV Series

Kristen Baldwin, ew.com, describes the essence of Dr. Ike’s destructive actions:

Using manipulation, mind games, and precision-guided guilt, Dr. Ike inveigles his way into his patient’s business affairs, and even his grand summer home in the Hamptons…At first, therapy seems to do Marty some good, as Dr. Ike encourages him to ‘grab the reins’ to his life and stop living in fear of conflict. But it’s all in service of a larger plan: Herschkopf operates like a one-man cult, slowly alienating Marty from Phyllis, his loyal employees, and anyone else who suggests that the shrink’s methods are suspect.

Dave Nemetz, tvline.com: “It’s almost like What About Bob? in reverse, with the therapist becoming attached to his patient like a parasite.” (See my previous posts about What About Bob? here and here.)

Watch the trailer below:

A second trailer reveals more about Marty and his sister’s rift:

Jun 27

“The Cider House Rules”: Making One’s Own Way

Well, someone who don’t live here made those rules. Those rules ain’t for us. We are supposed to make our own rules. And we do. Every single day. The Cider House Rules

Film critic Bob Graham, San Francisco Chronicle, called the award-winning and poignant 1999 film The Cider House Rules, which was adapted from John Irving‘s novel and directed by Lasse Holstrom, not only “Dickensian” but also “one dickens of an American movie.”

Quite pertinent to Minding Therapy, moreover, and adding to the above, was the review of Stephen Holden, The New York Times:

It doesn’t take a cryptographer to decipher the meanings in John Irving’s sprawling picaresque allegories. But a reader who wants to savor them must be willing to suspend a psychoanalytic view of human nature descended from Freud through Oprah and surrender to an imagination that is more Dickensian than Freudian. Once you give up those expectations, a visit to the world according to Irving is a little like touring a parallel universe where fate is determined not so much by abusive parents as by wondrous tragicomic events beyond the realm of psychology.

THE PLOT

Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine) runs an orphanage, St. Clouds. Bob Graham, San Francisco Chronicle:

Wintry St. Clouds has several kinds of clients. A few are prospective adopters who come to inspect the children — ‘I’m the best of all the kids,’ one of them declares — and occasionally leave with one. Many others come to have their babies and leave them behind, and some expectant parents come for illegal abortions. Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) is an orphan who never found a family but grew to adulthood at St. Clouds and stayed. He now assists Larch. He knows how to deliver babies but is not a doctor. One thing he won’t assist Larch in, however, is performing abortions.

The following scene epitomizes the heartbreak of everyday decision-making at St. Cloud’s:

After a particular couple (Paul Rudd, Charlize Theron) receives abortion services at St. Clouds, Homer decides to leave with them to “see the world.” He spends years away from there, partly working alongside African American migrants at an apple orchard—the scene of the “Cider House Rules” that aren’t necessarily heeded—and off-season being a lobsterman.

While Rudd’s character is away serving his country, Homer and Theron’s character, Candy, fall in love

Other important parts of the story include an incestuous relationship perpetrated by the orchard’s crew boss and Homer’s eventual return to the orphanage.

THE TRAILER

MAIN THEMES AND PERFORMANCES, IN BRIEF

Stephen Holden, New York Times: “The need to be of use, the discovery that the official rules and real-life rules of how to behave rarely coincide — these and other life lessons that our innocent hero learns may sound like the tritest of homilies. But ‘The Cider House Rules’ gives them the depth and emotional weight of earned wisdom.”

Lisa Schwarzbaum, ew.com: “…Dr. Larch suits Caine, who, establishing the unorthodox rituals of a doctor committed to his own ethical rules (he huffs ether to tune out the world’s misery), locates the sadness and stubbornness behind the abortionist/child saver’s fervor.”

IN CONCLUSION

An opinion articulated by Stephen Holden, New York Timesabout The Cider House Rules resonates deeply with this viewer (who’s seen it several times):

…(I)t is a sustained meditation on the dream of home sweet home that gnaws at the heart of its orphaned main character Homer…as well as the hearts of the other children who grow up in St. Cloud’s…

…(G)rowing up means coming to the realization that in a cosmic sense we are all orphans.