Monday, April 16, 2007

You Order Salad Like A Shrink

Or: working towards the MNP (see posts below)
Warning-- Plot Spoiler



So I went to see Reign Over Me with the connected Judge and my connected now-13-year-old daughter. I think Carrie recommended it some time ago in a comment on an old post. It was my second attempt this weekend to see The Namesake, the first go around I ended up at The Hoax with my husband.

So Reign Over Me Was a shrink blogger's jackpot. Here's the drift:
Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) is a dentist, he lives in Manhattan with the perfect wife, the perfect life and two lovely daughters. His job and family define him, he longs for friendship, maybe even adventure, his life is perfect but sterile. In a boundary-violating maneuver bordering on stalking, he lurks outside a psychiatrist's office to bombard her with questions about "a friend" as she leaves her office--he can't hear that he should schedule an appointment, and the poor beautiful Dr. Angela Oakhurst (Liv Tyler) gets question after question.

Enter scooter-riding, unkempt, can we pleeese give him a haircut, Dr. Charlie Fineman, Alan's long lost college roommate and dental school pal. Charlie is a walking talking post-traumatic mess from the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in which his wife, 3 beautiful young daughters, and poodle (?) Spider, died in on one of the planes. By day, he compulsively and repetitively remodels the kitchen (--an apology, we later learn, to his wife who's final conversation with him was about the kitchen), by night he plays video games on a giant screen, goes to Mel Brooks flicks, collects vinyl from the 70's and 80's. He remembers nothing from before 9/11, has written off his in-laws, given up dentistry, doesn't recognize roommate Allan who reminds him how he used to sleep naked. Oh, good, another penis on the blog; hold on, there's more.

The two re-connect, their relationship becomes meaningful for both of them, their needs almost palpable. Charlie, however, has this little quirk that when someone mentions his past, he gets violent. Oops. Alan, however, is kind enough to overlook a few big outbursts, even one where Charlie grabs him by the neck, slams his diplomas to the wall. And Alan decides that Charlie needs help and he's going to be the one to get it for him.

So Alan has this other little sub-plot problem: a gorgeous patient, Donna Remar (Saffron Burrows) offers him a blow job (see, I told you, more penises), he tosses her from the office and she's sent off with orders to get a new dentist. Only jilted, she then sues him for sexual harassment, ridiculous, but how does one prove what goes on behind closed doors? Office partners just aren't happy. Eventually, he agrees to see her and she apologizes, explains she was mistreated by her ex, drops the lawsuit, turns out to be a patient of the lovely Angela, and will eventually be cast as the will-be girlfriend of the traumatized and violent Charlie the former Dentist.

Okay, so Alan wants to get help for Charlie, who wants no one and nothing that will touch on past memories. In a record store, they bump into the nerdy Nigel who invites them to join them for lunch-- Charlie quickly sniffs out the deception and yells over lunch "You're a shrink, you even order salad like a shrink." A man close to my heart, Nigel responds, "How does a shrink order salad."

Next, Alan introduces Charlie to Angela, who Charlie agrees to continue seeing, in part because she has great breasts, something he doesn't hesitate to tell her. He talks for a few minutes then ends each session abruptly. Finally, Angela confronts him with the fact that he needs to tell his story to someone or there's no point coming. He leaves, and tells his tragedy to Alan in the waiting room as Angela listens. It's one of those tear- jerking breakthrough moments that one hopes will lead to a cure, or even the end of the movie. But Charlie goes home, loads a gun, ends up pointing it at a police officer (this, my real-life judge friend tells me, is called Suicide By Cop), ends up tackled and spending 3 days in a psych unit, where Angela and Alan lobby for his release, and Angela insists what he needs is outpatient care which she can provide-- and ohmygosh nobody mentions that her last great intervention just days before nearly got the patient, or a cop, killed. Charlie goes free, there is another hearing a few days later in which the judge (Donald Sutherland) decides that his in-laws can dictate if he needs further inpatient commitment for up to a year, warning them harshly, "think about whether your little girl would want her husband to go to a place like this." Give me a break.

So Charlie moves out of the apartment with the now gorgeous kitchen, Angela the shrink and Donna the sexually harassing patient bring him root beer and pizza, everyone lives happily ever after.

So PTSD Adam Sandler style, with lots to think about, and while Dr. Angela is actually pretty good at times, there are all the boundary-blasting usual shrink things we've come to know and love in the movies.