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By Adam Lippe

shrink01You know what’s awful about shallow people? They’re just so… shallow.

Shallow people have nothing to say, but despite that they seem completely self-involved, about what isn’t clear. If you don’t have thoughts, what could you be thinking of?

What does the stereotypically shallow Hollywood agent consider when he’s yelling and screaming at people and putting together loud, expensive disaster movies that he doesn’t even watch? Is he naturally angry? What about the spiritual and naïve actor that the agent represents, can he find his meaning in prescription drugs? What about that screenwriter who doubles as a waiter, trying his damndest to avoid clichés, but that’s all he knows, is he ever going to find that profound idea that he’ll turn into a script that moves people and makes them weep? If he’s just like everyone else, nothing distinctive about him, how will he manage originality? Do you think he’ll find it by following around the “older than her years,” poor, black teenager who can’t stand to look at herself (causing a broken mirror) because she doesn’t know why her mother killed herself? Will her shrink, who, coincidentally, had a wife who also just killed herself, be able to understand her, or will he dote on the gorgeous actress/patient being ignored by her rock-star husband who likes himself a whole lot? Will the shrink melt down during a TV interview, claiming himself a fraud, while every single character described above has the TV on, turned on to that specific channel, to a book interview show that would be on public access, and was somehow shot live, so the shrink’s ranting and raving wouldn’t be reshot?

shrink2What is distinctive about any of these people? Well, in Jonas Pate’s Shrink, the actor is clearly modeled on Colin Farrell, the agent looks like Jamie Kennedy, the black girl has… glasses and the shrink smokes a lot of pot (star/producer Kevin Spacey). Then there’s the screenwriter—who knows the black girl for some reason, but that’s on the cutting room floor. The agent’s secretary is pregnant, the guy interviewing the shrink is played by noted media critic and screenwriter Gore Vidal (who must have thought his scene was a joke). And they are all tied together by the fact they are profoundly uninteresting.

There’s nothing else to Shrink, except for one wholly unbelievable scene after another, including an intervention by Spacey’s family, because he’s smoking too much… Pot. Though it doesn’t really seem to be affecting him all that much and you certainly never hear of interventions for a drug as mild as pot. Are there interventions held for people who drink too much coffee and we just don’t know about them?

It’s funny to see a movie so clearly made solely for those who live and work somewhere between the Paramount and the Fox lot, and still seem to have no material on that subject that isn’t obvious or avoids appearing like unintentional parody. Did Spacey really look at the script for Shrink written by Thomas Moffett and think, “it’s another edgy, Hurlyburly bit of LA cynicism and insight. It even ties up the plot strands in a neat little bow complete with convenient panic attacks and totally unmotivated personality changes that suit the characters, but don’t make much sense.”

spaceysmokingIn reality, Shrink is a lot closer to a Bret Easton Ellis novel, in terms of presenting a bunch of self-centered, drug-addled deluded Los Angelinos, who can only offer nonsense rambling and bogus self-help speeches. The only difference is that the characters in Shrink are not intended as mocking and satirical, but rather those who find piercing insight into life in the strangest places, insight that they can’t wait to reveal to us. I feel so privileged.

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By Adam Lippe

Whenever there’s a genre parody or ode to a specific era of films, such as Black Dynamite’s mocking of Blaxploitation films or Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, the second half of Grindhouse, the danger is that the film might fall into the trap of either being condescending without any particular insight, or so faithful that it becomes the very flawed thing it is emulating.

Black Dynamite has nothing new to say about Blaxploitation films, it just does a decent job of copying what an inept [...]

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Featured Quote (written by me)

On Cold Fish:

Though the 16 year old me described the 1994 weepie Angie, starring Geena Davis as a Brooklyn mother raising her new baby alone, as “maudlin and melodramatic,” Roger Ebert, during his TV review, referring to the multitude of soap-operaish problems piling up on the titular character, suggested that it was only in Hollywood where Angie would get a happy ending. “If they made this movie in France, Angie would have shot herself.”

Well Cold Fish was made in Japan, where Angie would have shot herself and that would have been the happy ending.