Psychobabble

shrink 2 credit jihan abd PsychobabbleSHRINK
Running time 110 minutes
Written by Thomas Moffett
Directed by Jonas Pate
Starring Kevin Spacey, Mark Webber, Dallas Roberts, Robin Williams, Jack Huston, Saffron Burrows

Not since The Informers, based catatonically on the idiotic Bret Easton Ellis book, has the screen unleashed a Hollywood abortion as dismal and dead-on-arrival as Shrink. This vile and preposterous abomination  about a Hollywood shrink to the stars who is more screwed up than his patients begins the same way as American Beauty, in the shower with Kevin Spacey. This time he looks 50 years older. In fact, he looks like he’s been through a wood chipper.

It’s no disgrace to consult a shrink no matter where you live (I don’t know anybody who hasn’t), but in Hollywood, nobody ever graduates, and if this movie is any evidence, the shrinks should be inside the asylum instead of running it. Like the schizophrenics who populated The Informers, the nut jobs in Shrink are on a brief intermission between self-hatred and suicide. As the depraved psychiatrist who threads the fractured vignettes together, Mr. Spacey mumbles his way through this mess like a ventriloquist’s dummy that’s been attacked by a woodpecker. Listening to neurotics all day, he writes best-selling how-to books that are vaguely philosophical and uniformly hated by the man who writes them. It’s no wonder his wife killed herself and he’s addicted to junk food and drugs and allergic to soap and a safety razor. The movie is about how this human train wreck learns to focus on his own salvation, but you won’t believe it for a micro-minute. By the time his patients stage an intervention, you wonder what took them so long.

Among the living cadavers who pay his inflated bills and waste time breathing the same air as other people, there’s the miserable, freaked-out agent (Dallas Roberts) who doubles as one of Tinseltown’s most successful hypocrites; the alcoholic movie star (Robin Williams) who narrowly avoids jail for his sex addiction; the Irish movie star (Jack Huston) who overdoses on six different illegal drugs simultaneously and gets carried away to a padded cell because he’s out of his element making violent sci-fi epics in Southern California; an aspiring writer (Mark Webber) of screenplays about asteroids; a fading A-list star (Saffron Burrows) sentenced to the gallows of middle age; a drug dealer who provides them all with chemical escape hatches; a troubled black teenager (Keke Palmer) from a ghetto far removed from the glitter, who is forced on the shrink as a pro bono case … but why go on? There isn’t a single character in this droning farrago of yawning tedium worth analyzing. Nobody is interesting enough to sustain more than a 60-second scene, so nobody bothers. The entire movie looks like it was filmed in an intensive-care unit.

The wheedling, pointless dialogue, by Thomas Moffett, goes like this: “I love my wife—she makes me get harder than Chinese algebra” and “This guy sees more pussy than a litter box.” Somebody asks the loathsome agent, “When was the last time you actually sat through an entire movie?” The agent snarls, “Titanic. Too long. Spoiler alert—the boat sinks.” I mean, do people really get paid for this prattle? Has Kevin Spacey forgotten how to read? The shrink finally passes out in the middle of a talk show interview conducted by none other than Gore Vidal, the only person in the movie who shaves, and I’d be willing to bet the look of disgust on Mr. Vidal’s face was not in the script. You’ll think twice before you ever go to a shrink again. You’ll also wonder aloud (with merit) how any movie as moronic as Shrink ever gets made. Maybe it’s intended as a bus and truck version of Play It as It Lays, but if I’m going to see cynicism, nihilism and suicidal angst, I’ll take it from Joan Didion. The director of this fiasco, somebody named Jonas Pate, couldn’t direct a dune buggy across the surface of the moon.

When for no reason the boring, scowling black student and the boring wannabe writer climb to the top of the Hollywood sign, where actress Peg Entwistle jumped to her death in 1932, you’ll hope history repeats itself.

rreed@observer.com