“Let the healing begin!” sighs pot-smoking headshrinker Henry Carter (Kevin Spacey) in Jonas Pate’s mordant drama, an ensemble piece in which LA dysfunctionals cross paths via the confessional couch.
Like HBO’s In Treatment spliced with elements from The Player, Shrink has a selection of Tinseltown types (bad-boy actor Jack Huston, venal agent Dallas Roberts, blocked writer Mark Webber) intersect, hoping their collisions will throw up interesting conflict.
The result, alas, is just contrivance, despite a good cast, including an unbilled Robin Williams as an alcoholic actor convinced he’s a sex addict.
In a city of some 17 million people, it’s faintly comical how often Pate’s characters bump into each other en route to a redemptive climax. Still, ignore the multiple coincidences and there is knowing fun to be had watching Huston ape Colin Farrell or Roberts emulate Spacey’s own agent-from-hell in Swimming With Sharks. (Piqued by a rival, this foul-mouthed obsessive-compulsive has an underling defecate on his doorstep.)
Another neat gag has Carter seek a therapy of sorts himself from a baby-faced dealer (Jesse Plemons) with a constant supply of ganja. Yet such witty brush stokes clash with Shrink’s more serious agenda, a mawkish plot thread that has Henry, stricken with grief over the death of his wife, bond with a film-obsessed tweenager (Keke Palmer from Akeelah And The Bee) tormented by her own family troubles.
“You should make better movies!” Palmer tells Williams sternly during one of the many chance encounters. That’s nothing, though, next to a laughably pat resolution that suggests the solution to psychological trauma is to make a movie about it, or the plot-dictated absurdity that a Julia Roberts-like actress (Saffron Burrows) hounded by paparazzi would walk her dog and do her own grocery shopping.
A rare leading turn from Spacey lends heft to an otherwise strained tale that relies on too much happenstance to ring true. A few memorable scenes and some pungent dialogue are all that you’ll take away from this particular session.