Movie review: Shrink (2009)

In Shrink, Kevin Spacey plays a psychiatrist who has written a best-selling book about happiness. The people in this movie are anything but happy. They are all—to varying degrees—running from unhappiness. They self-medicate through drugs and alcohol. Spiraling deeper and deeper into unhappiness, the shrink is the most unhappy.

Dr. Henry Carter is a shrink to the stars, but he mostly can’t help his clientele—or so he thinks—an OCD agent, a wife of a narcissist musician, an alcoholic actor convinced that he is a sex addict. Their lives intersect with one other and other characters along the way.

Henry sleeps night after night in a different spot in his house. On a lounge chair, the couch, on the diving board of his pool—anywhere but his bed. He spends his days sinking deeper into unhappiness, busy drinking and smoking a constant supply of weed.

Henry ultimately receives salvation from a pro bono client: a student who was ordered by school to attend therapy sessions. He has something in common with Jemma. They both lost someone close to suicide. His wife. Her mother. And there are no answers. Or explanations of why.

Through symbolic burial and rebirth, Henry is reborn into a new life, a new start. In a drug-induced haze, he buries his dog, the dog that his deceased wife had given him. And then collapses, awakening in the hospital next to his drug dealer, who had also smoked the same weed. The drugs had been laced with embalming fluid. Symbolic death and resurrection.

Henry returns home to start again. He flushes the remaining drugs down the toilet. He rereads his wife’s suicide note. He ventures to a patient’s house to resign as her doctor with the implication that they will continue to see each other non-professionally. At the end of the day, he crawls into his bed to sleep alcohol-free and drug-free.

Shrink juggled a number of story lines. Perhaps too many. The commonalities were Hollywood and the movie industry, unhappiness and getting unstuck. Each character encountered a dead-end; they either had to turn that corner to heal and grow. Or not.

They chose to turn.


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