Do you need professional help? Actually, probably best not to dwell on that too much, but instead ponder the resurgence of the movie therapist on the big screen of late.
Whippersnapper Anna Kendrick takes on the role of unlikely counsellor in the new ‘cancer bromance’ 50/50, while Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen will soon be seen playing Jung and Freud respectively (if not respectfully) in Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method.
So with that in (or on your) mind, why not lie back on the couch, and put your problems to one side as we consider some of the more note-worthy movie shrinks. Please note that this list is no particular order, though I’m sure all you psychologists out there would be interested in why this list of no particular order is in this particular order:
Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs): A cultured, brilliant psychiatrist, with particular insight into the mind of deranged serial killers, Hopkins’ Dr Hannibal Lector nevertheless has, what the great Greek dramatists would call, a tragic flaw. He likes to eat people. Preferably with fava beans and a nice Chianti (insert your own sucking noise here). How and ever, he proves to be of crucial, if elliptical assistance to cheap-shoes-wearing, screaming-lambs-haunted FBI rookie Jodie Foster, who is out to catch a music-loving misfit with a penchant for making clothes from women’s skin. No silly, not Lady Gaga, but Buffalo Bill.
Judd Hirsch (Ordinary People): In Robert Redford’s 1980 domestic drama, Taxi star Hirsch brought dishevelled dignity and sensitivity to the role of Dr Tyrone Berger, who is trying to help his teenage patient Calvin (Timothy Hutton) get over his suicidal guilt over the death of his older brother in a boating accident. As with all psychotherapy – if not life – it all points back to Cal’s mother, the cold and distant Beth (remarkably played with glacial passivity by then-reigning sitcom queen Mary Tyler Moore). Cue a great emotional breakthrough that fully earns its tear-soaked resolution.
Bruce Willis (The Sixth Sense): Poor, clueless Brucey, playing Dr Malcolm Crowe, finds himself in the exact same position as the audience in M. Night Shyamalan’s famously twisty thriller, curiously unravelling little Cole’s (Haley Joel Osment) tales of ghostly visitations, only copping at the very last minute that…well, it probably still isn’t fair to reveal too much more. For the uninitiated who may be coming across the movie for the first time: watch out for the icy breath, and for how Cole’s mother Toni Collette interacts with Bruce.
Billy Crystal (Analyse This): Released just as a little TV show called The Sopranos used the same storyline to slightly more dramatic effect, Analyse This sees Billy Crystal star as harried shrink Dr Ben Sobel, whose newest client is panic-attack-afflicted mob boss Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro). Despite initial apprehensions, Sobel, who has his own hassles, finds his practice re-invigorated through his sessions with Vitti. Okay, so he ends up taking a non-fatal bullet for Vitti, but whatcha gonna do?
Donald Pleasance (Hallowe’en): Cue John Carpenter’s skin-crawlingly creepy Hallowe’en musical score. Pleasance is at his bug-eyed best playing Dr Sam Loomis, the man who has spent years trying to penetrate the glazed, silent madness behind the eyes of child killer Michael Myers. When Myers escapes, and returns to his hometown to unleash masked bloody mayhem amongst the locale’s populace of teen virgins and over-sexed jocks, Loomis follows in hot pursuit, muttering portentous statements about “pure evil”. Loomis helps to save the day by shooting Myers just as he’s about to butcher Jamie Lee Curtis – but the body disappears soon after. Yes dear, that was the bogeyman.
Ingrid Bergman (Spellbound); In Hitchcock’s classic head-twister, Bergman stars as psychoanalyst Dr Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman), who thinks there’s something funny about her hospital’s new director Dr. Edwardes (Gregory Peck). She’s right too: he seems to be an imposter, who killed the real Edwardes, but blocked it all out through amnesia. Petersen, however, isn’t convinced of his guilt, and the pair goes on the run with the authorities in close pursuit. This being Hitchcock, everything isn’t that cut-and-dry, but the movie is most famous for a symbolic dream sequence devised by Salvador Dali (who – we shit you not – also designed the Chupa Chups logo).
Richard Dreyfuss (What About Bob?): In one of this writer’s favourite childhood movies, Richard Dreyfuss – who always seems as if he’s half-cuckoo to begin with – stars as Dr Leo Marvin, whose peaceful lakeside vacation is interrupted by the arrival of his everything-phobic patient Bob Wiley (Bill Murray). Bob turns out to be a big hit with Marvin’s family, pushing the doc to breaking point. As Bob gets better thanks to Marvin’s book Baby Steps, the psychiatrist himself starts to lose his mind. He only breaks out of his catatonic state at Bob’s wedding – to Marvin’s sister – but it’s too late to stop the nuptials.
Mariah Carey (Precious): Not a therapist exactly, but as tough-talking social worker Mrs Weiss, Carey gives… 7,&hjljkbCZ – sorry, that’s my laptop putting up resistance to typing these next few words: bear with me as I struggle through – an admirably restrained performance, quietly probing just enough to get beneath Precious’ damaged exterior to get her talking about her various traumas. Carey’s character is also instrumental in confronting Precious’ horrendous mother Mary (Mo’Nique) at the end of the movie.
Ben Kingsley (Shutter Island): Sir Ben puts his default creepiness to good use as Dr John Cawley, head psychiatrist on the eponymous island’s prison hospital for the criminally insane. After an inmate supposedly escapes, and the feds come to investigate, Cawley seems to be particularly cautious and unhelpful, especially around troubled lead investigator Teddy Daniels (Leonardo di Caprio). It’s almost as if he knows something that none of the rest of us – Teddy included – yet realise…That’s as much as we say without giving away, erm, killer spoilers. But all you smarty-pants types might like to know that the film is actually an extended metaphor for the process of making movies (‘Shutter’ being one clue).
Robin Williams (Good Will Hunting): One of modern cinema’s definitive “solve everything with a hug” therapists, Williams’ Sean Maguire is hired to help unfocused janitor-genius Will (Matt Damon, or Maaaaat Dammmmon, to give him his proper Team America title) to get to grip with his “issues” and sort his life out. The clincher is their final session when Maguire tries to re-assure Will that he’s not responsible for the terrible things that happened to him in childhood that are now holding him back. “It’s not your fault Will. It’s not your fault.” Excuse me, I have something in my eye!