Posted on September 29, 2009 at 8:00 am
“Physician, heal yourself!”
Henry Carter (Kevin Spacey) is the best-selling author of a book called Happiness Now and a Los Angeles psychiatrist to glamorous and highly successful people. But he is a mess, self-medicating to the point of obliterating himself with drugs and alcohol. He walks off in the middle of a talk show interview about his book. He walks out of an intervention from his friends and family. He is trying to walk out of his life. His patients want answers, reassurance, a sense of order and safety. But the usual assurances and gentle openings, “I know how hard that is” or “Do you know why you feel this way?” do not seem to work. And a devastating loss in his own life has left him in greater need than any of them.
Spacey is mesmerizing as the “compassion fatigued” Carter. The pain and anger of his character are palpable, as is his heart-wrenching frustration at not being able to stop feeling for himself and his patients. The cast is filled with brilliant performers who find subtlety and heart in otherwise stock characters (out of control rock star, would-be writer, shark agent, troubled teen) complex and sympathetic. Dallas Roberts (the agent), Pell James (the agent’s assistant), and KeKe Palmer of “Akeela and the Bee” (the teen) are pitch-perfect. If writer Thomas Moffett makes the mistake of falling too much in love with his characters to let anything too terrible happen to them, it is understandable, because we do, too.