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Shrink is a 2009 American independent film about a psychologist who treats members of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, California. It stars an ensemble cast headed by Kevin Spacey as Dr. Henry Carter. Filming took place in Los Angeles under the direction of Jonas Pate using a script written by Thomas Moffett. The film premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. The film also includes music by Jackson Browne. The story takes place in Hollywood, and revolves around Dr. Henry Carter (Kevin Spacey). Most of Carter's patients are luminaries in the film industry, each undergoing their own life crisis. Carter lives in a large, luxurious house overlooking the Hollywood Hills, and has published a hugely successful self-help book. However, Carter is disheveled, and he is frequently seen alone in his large house. He smokes marijuana at home, in his car, and behind his office when not seeing patients. Carter routinely drinks himself to sleep around his house, waking up in his clothes. He never enters his bedroom. Despite his own problems, Carter continues psychotherapy with his patients, maintaining his incisiveness, compassion, and strong doctor-patient relationships.
In Shrink, he plays Henry Carter, pot-smoking, booze-swilling celebrity therapist to the stars who is in the midst of a media blitz for his latest best-selling self-help tome. He is also a recent widower, his wife having killed herself before the film begins. Henry waxes therapeutic with washed-up actors (Robin Williams), spastic super-agents (Dallas Roberts), and a celebrity couple on the rocks (Saffron Burrows and Joel Gretsch) for money. But elsewhere, he shares confessions and psychological heft with his father (Robert Loggia), his best friend (Mark Webb), and his pot dealer (Jesse Plemons of TV's Friday Night Lights) for nothing more than good company and a little grass.
Henry, as it seems all seasoned therapists must be in Hollywood, is himself a head case unable to cope with the world at large without a fresh joint in hand. An early scene depicts an intervention on his behalf which he casts off sharply after reminding everyone in the room that none of their spouses have committed suicide. Their love and support won't cut it, but there is a definite uplift in the doctor's mood when he takes on new patient Jemma (Keke Palmer), a teenage cinephile who recently lost her mother to suicide. After attending a screening of the Coen Brothers' Fargo, Jemma surmises that going to the movies might be better than talking it out with Henry.
She has a point: Part of the power of the cinema is catharsis and the excising of personal or collective fantasies. Movies can cause elation and pose personal challenges and questions and, sometimes, they can do both at the same time. It's a pity then to see that Shrink can't summon the courage or talent to conjure either feeling and rather opts for the safety of predictable moralizing and benign archtypes. The script by Thomas Moffett strains to interconnect all of Henry's patients, a trick that has grown so insufferable since Renoir invented it that its very mention signals ambition over focus. Henry's best friend turns Jemma's life into a screenplay without permission; the super-agent and the washed-up actor share the same groupie; the super-agent's secretary falls for the best friend. That's not even mentioning the romance between Henry and one of his patients.
It's an impressively convoluted piece of writing, but it loses it shine when it becomes clear that neither Moffett nor Pate know where they are going with these stories. They have spent so much time and effort convincing the audience of the vast spread of coincidence and luck that they forget the individuals, and many of the characters become so exhaustively calculable that we no longer care where they end up by the time Henry hits rock bottom. But Henry, chronically unshaven, remains at the forefront of the film throughout, and Spacey's mere presence exudes a scruffy charm that eases the film's increasingly annoying sense of importance. It should go without saying, however, that having a little charm will not solve all your problems.