Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Blackly funny but never as vicious as it clearly wants to be, this rather nihilistic look at modern society keeps us hooked with desperate and lost characters who all have a whiff of soulful humanity.
Henry Carter (Spacey) is a celebrity psychiatrist unable to rebound after a terrible personal tragedy. Anaesthetising himself with alcohol and drugs, he wonders if the fact that he can't help himself indicates that he's useless to his patients too. He's also annoyed that his family keeps trying to help him, from an intervention to a pro bono assignment to treat a troubled teen (Palmer), who has had a similar experience. The fact is that he just has patients, not friends, and the only person he can talk to is his dealer (Plemons).
Even if the way the plot strands weave together feels a little contrived, this beautifully shot film has a gripping emotional core, with a raw, earthy tone that captures the agony and confusion of grief. And Spacey is terrific as a man disappearing into a hash-fuelled fog. Henry's patients are Hollywood movers and shakers, and they're engagingly well-performed, from Roberts' manic agent to a variety of famous but fragile actors (Huston, Burrows and Williams).
For contrast we have a sweetly offbeat rom-com subplot involving Henry's "godbrother" (Webber) and the agent's pregnant assistant (James). The wide variety of characters and side-stories weave together to paint a fascinating but heavy-handed portrait of Western society in which people can't quite put a finger on their purpose in life. The mindless pursuit of drugs, sex and money are all vividly portrayed. And the most telling aspect is the sense that the doctor needs others to help heal him.
These are all people at the end of their ropes, and yet no one can quite bring him or herself to admit it, so they carry on day to day, as if what they're doing has some meaning. Fortunately, the actors and filmmakers invest this bleak premise with some honest emotion, real connection and jagged wit. And these moments of compassion are what keep us (and the characters) from feeling suicidal about it all.
Facts and Figures
Run time: 104 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 6th August 2009
Box Office USA: $93.2k
Distributed by: Roadside Attractions
Production compaines: Ignite Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 29%
Fresh: 18 Rotten: 45
IMDB: 6.7 / 10
Cast & Crew
Director: Jonas Pate
Producer: Dana Brunetti, Braxton Pope, Kevin Spacey
Screenwriter: Thomas Moffett
Starring: Kevin Spacey as Henry Carter, Mark Webber as Jeremy, Keke Palmer as Jemma, Jack Huston as Shamus, Pell James as Daisy, Meiling Melançon as Miyu, Dallas Roberts as Patrick, Ashley Greene as Missy, Laura Ramsey as Keira, Braxton Pope as Braxton, Robin Williams as Holden