Kevin Spacey leads an impressive cast playing an asylum’s worth of disturbed Hollywood types in “Shrink” by helmer Jonas Pate, who can only hope there are enough of those disturbed Hollywood types out there to see it. As pot-smoking psychiatrist-to-the-stars Henry Carter, Spacey is solid, sympathetic and has an ennui-ridden detachment to his affluent patients’ problems. But the film may be too inside-baseball, with strained sympathy and contrived emotions — even if Keke Palmer’s performance as a high school-age film nut provides some welcome grounding in reality. Theatrical seems a no-brainer.

The cast of characters provided by Thomas Moffett’s script is a tad predictable: an aging actress (Saffron Burrows) with a cheating, country-singer husband; an alcoholic film vet (an uncredited Robin Williams) who’d prefer to think himself a sex addict; a young writer (Mark Webber) whose big problem is having nothing to say; a superagent (Dallas Roberts) with more ticks than a cornfield; his beleaguered and pregnant assistant (Pell James); and Jemma (Palmer), a high school girl who finds a balm for her broken heart in matinee movies.

Henry is the intersection of all these people, including Jemma, who is assigned to him as a pro bono case, and ought to give Henry some perspective on his clients — who include a sexy Irish actor with substance problems (Jack Huston). Without naming names, it seems Moffett is skating on the thin ice of libel with some of these characterizations, but he’s also jamming 20 pounds of character into a 10-pound Gucci bag: Things happen too quickly, without sufficient development; bonds are made, broken and remade, without concern for emotional plausibility. As a result, the vacuous nature of some of the characters — Patrick, notably, with his vile combination of neurosis and cruelty — seem to have no point. Or none for anyone outside psychiatry or the film biz.

There must have been a carrot behind the stick that got all these folks together –perhaps Pate’s agreeable nature. Actors are allowed to vent their inner ham to their heart’s content. (Gore Vidal even shows up, as a TV host during a crucial scene, but you’re too busy saying, “That’s Gore Vidal,” to pay attention.)

Production values are good, with standouts including d.p. Lukas Ettlin’s use of light.


  • Production: A Trigger Street Prods., Ithaka Entertainment and Ignite Prods. presentation. Produced by Michael Burns, Braxton Pope, Dana Brunetti. Co-producers, John Saviano, Pell James. Directed by Jonas Pate. Screenplay, Thomas Moffett, based on a story by Henry Rearden.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Lukas Ettlin; editor, Luis Carballar; music, Brian Rietzell, Ken Andrews; production designer, Mark Hutman; costume designer, Johanna Argan; casting, Sheila Jaffe. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Premieres) Jan. 20, 2009. Running time: 110 MIN.
  • With: Henry Carter - Kevin Spacey Holden - Robin Williams Kate Amberson - Saffron Burrows Jemma - Keke Palmer Patrick - Dallas Roberts Daisy - Pell James Shamus - Jack Huston Jeremy - Mark Webber Robert Carter - Robert Loggia Keira - Laura Ramsey