The best Movie therapists

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!

Words – Declan Cashin

*50/50 is out now.