Mar 21

“The Face of Love”: A Psychological Love Story with Annette Bening

John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter, sets up the premise of the Vertigo-compared The Face of Love, a new psychological love story:

Depicting an episode of grief-fueled insanity that might tempt anyone in the same situation, Arie Posin‘s The Face of Love offers a widow who, upon meeting her husband’s doppelganger five years after his death, can’t help but pretend he’s the man she’s loved her whole life. Annette Bening captivates as the self-delusionist, with Ed Harris ruggedly irresistible as the object of her fantasy.

Nikki had been married about 30 years when she became a widow—her husband Garrett drowned while out swimming one night. Since then her life hasn’t been the same, of course. Meeting the lookalike Tom (who’s divorced from Amy Brenneman‘s character) is one thing, but not telling him why she’s so drawn to him—not even that the man he so closely resembles is dead—is another.

In similar fashion, she also avoids letting either her friend Roger (Robin Williams) or her daughter (Jess Weixler) meet Tom.

You can watch the trailer for The Face of Love below:

The reviews so far have been less than stellar, with more kudos going to the actors than anything else. Some excerpts follow:

Claudia Puig, USA Today: “It’s a maudlin, superficial exercise in obsession masquerading as a heartfelt romance and study of grief, and character development is sorely lacking.”

Justin Chang, Variety: “…verges on ludicrous, but ultimately succeeds at conveying one person’s complicated yet emotionally rational response to a highly irrational situation.”

Manohla Dargis, The New York Times: “…(T)he main attractions are Ed Harris and a deeply appealing Annette Bening as two — actually, make that three — characters brought together by fate and a screenplay that promisingly flirts with fantasy only to come crashing down to bummer earth.”

John DeForeHollywood Reporter: “Posin and co-screenwriter Matthew McDuffie find a wholly credible resolution to this love story, but they can’t resist a coda that is pat enough (especially in its final shot) to be described as tacky. It’s an end as emotionally tidy as the premise is thorny.”

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “A trite, unconvincing ending, in the form of a credo, finally succumbs to the kind of melodrama the rest of the movie successfully avoids and leaves an unsettling aftertaste. But the acting is bliss.”

Apr 06

“Patch Adams”: Healing Mentally and Medically Through Humor

In the 1998 movie Patch Adams, which is loosely based on a real life, Robin Williams plays the title character who admits himself to a mental hospital after attempting suicide.

Here’s what happens next, as described by reviewer Peter Stack, SFGate: “Under the cold gaze of an uncaring shrink, Adams discovers a knack for self-healing humor and tries it on other patients in his ward — with instant success.”

The scene below shows Adams instigating laughs in a group therapy session:

Unfortunately, this film got generally stinko reviews—apparently even the real Patch Adams hated it, info reportedly passed along in a Tweet by critic Roger Ebert.

Other critiques of note:

  • An overdose of sentimental claptrap (Time Out)
  • An offensive and deeply false ”inspirational” drama that idiotically indicts the entire medical profession in the service of making one man — Adams, which is to say Williams — look like a cockeyed saint (Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly)
  • ...the kind of film that will work for an audience that’s just interested in having an emotional experience (with a happy ending) without caring how obviously or clumsily they are manipulated (Reelviews)

And some favorable if you look hard enough:

  • ...(R)uns amok for a while but ultimately manages to become bright and substantive entertainment by letting the main character occasionally drop his aggressive cheerfulness to show his aching heart and the earnestness of his mission to get doctors more engaged with patients (Peter Stack, San Francisco Chronicle)
  • A sure-fire crowd-pleaser! (Phillip Wuntch, Dallas Morning News)

But all that’s just about the film.

The real Patch Adams—the person, that is—has fared much better. He is a medical doctor, clown, social activist, public speaker, and founder and director of the Gesundheit Institute, a holistic medical center that has provided free health care to many.

One of his main career contributions, of course, is that he continues to spread good cheer. As his website states, “(He) believes that the most revolutionary act one can commit in our world is to be happy.”

Oct 21

Therapist Boundaries (Violence): Two Movies

Do a Google search about therapist boundaries, specifically therapists and violence, and you’ll find plenty about clients attending therapy for being violent.

But can you find any reliable info about therapists being violent? Against their clients? No? Do we have to (misguidedly) look to the movies for such things?

I. Good Will Hunting

Will (Matt Damon) in the movie Good Will Hunting (1997) is one character who has to attend therapy after an episode of violence. Finding the right shrink for Will, who trusts no one who tries to help him, turns out to be no easy feat. Well, maybe the less traditional, more directive kind of therapist we eventually find in Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) will fill the bill.

But before Will gets anywhere close to the meaningful catharsis the film wants him to have, he has to put Maguire through the usual hoops, in one instance meanly and provocatively maligning Maguire’s dead wife. What follows is this disturbing scene involving terrible therapist boundaries:

Lesson #1 (You Wouldn’t Pick Up From The Movies): It’s never okay to choke a client. (Or harm a client in any way.) (Unless, of course, in self-defense.) Even if the client then backs off and actually moves on to have one particular wowie-zowie life-changing therapy session.

JC Schildbach, LMHC, “Despite what the filmmakers would have us believe, this is not a valid technique for establishing rapport or ensuring appropriate transference with clients who have suffered abuse–even when therapist and client are both from south Boston and the client just shit-talked the therapist’s dead wife.”

II. What About Bob?

Next up, there’s actually worse things a shrink can do. In the film What About Bob? (1991), the psychiatrist played by Richard Dreyfuss goes nuts himself dealing with Bob (Bill Murray), his dependent client who follows him, uninvited of course, on vacation.

Lesson #2 (You Might Not Pick Up From the Movies): Even unsuccessful attempts at killing one’s (annoying) clients are not allowed.

Well, at least Leo Marvin’s “death therapy” doesn’t work, and while there’s an unhappy ending in store for him—catatonia and psychiatric hospitalization—there’s a happy ending for Bob, who marries Lily,  becoming Leo’s brother-in-law. And there’s more: We find out in the Epilogue that Bob goes on to get his psychology degree and to write the bestselling Death Therapy.