Dr. Sandra Cohen, a Beverly Hills psychoanalyst, writes about your favorite film, TV, and book characters
and their real human problems.

A good mother can make a bad situation better. I just read Valentina Valentini’s piece in Indie Wire, Mark Webber Wants Your Money – But He Can’t Tell You Why, about actor/director Mark Webber's Kick Starter Campaign. He’s raising money for a movie he’s making about his mother. It’s a secret, but he did give his mother’s name. So I googled Cheri Lynn Honkala and was blown away. Good mothers do a lot to help a child through all kinds of adversities. Children rely on a parent’s resilience, reassurance, optimism, and love. Homelessness and economic poverty are terribly difficult conditions to...

Spoiler Alert: Some Plot Details Revealed Cruelty comes in different forms. We can’t escape the obvious in BENT: the unimaginable inhumane cruelty of The Nazi Party towards Gays and Jews. Yet, we see more than the Nazi’s cruelty in this brilliantly acted, honest, heart wrenching, and inspiring play (written by Martin Sherman and directed by Moises Kaufman >now playing at the Mark Taper Forum ). We see other kinds of cruelty as well. Cruelty directed towards someone else when you’re scared to love. Cruelty aimed at yourself when you can’t accept who you are. BENT, set in 1934 Berlin where many were...

Jon Hamm deserves an Emmy for Don Draper. I agree with Variety’s Debra Birnbaum about that. But, I find it unfortunate that voters would only now consider awarding him that Emmy. As Birnbaum wrote, Hamm likely hasn’t won in the past since “Don Draper … was a cheating husband, a neglectful father, an unapologetic alcoholic … it’s hard to root for someone seemingly so unredeeming.” So now since, at the end of the brilliant Mad Men series, Don Draper apparently finds his “good self” it might be OK? In my opinion, they’ve mistakenly diminished the complex demands on an actor...

The Good: We see exactly who he is – since Donald Trump has only contempt for any kind of political correctness. Most of us are politically correct because it reflects what we believe. Yet, political correctness for political correctness’ sake could hide what someone really thinks. The Donald isn’t self-aware enough to hide. He’s also completely incapable of putting himself in anyone else’s shoes or knowing how they feel. He’s a narcissist and narcissists see no one but themselves. Megyn Kelly was right to ask – is his tactless and misogynistic behavior presidential? We should shudder to think that as...

Paula Hawkins’ New York Times bestselling novel, The Girl On The Train, gives us Rachel – a girl obsessed. There’s no question this novel is a mind bending murder mystery par excellence. But, for me as a psychoanalyst it poses a more interesting question. What’s behind Rachel’s obsession? Rachel Watson rides the train every day. She rides - as if she has a purpose. She used to have a life. Now she has nothing. She rides past her old neighborhood where the life she lost took place – the only happy life she ever had. She watches Jason and Jess; at...

That self-loathing voice can’t be allowed to take center stage. It makes you believe other people are thinking terrible thoughts about you too. You keep your distance. It’s a lonely place to be. David Foster Wallace's short story, The Depressed Person, shows he knew that struggle well. So does director James Ponsoldt's film about David Lipsky's road trip with him - The End Of The Tour. I left the theater incredibly sad, after witnessing David Foster Wallace’s (Jason Segel) steady stream of self-denigrating apologies. I know from my work as a psychoanalyst it doesn’t have to be that way. Self-loathing is what...

Depression is outwardly a quiet torment. Inside it’s an almost constant implosion of self-deprecating self-doubt. That’s what we witness in director James Ponsoldt’s The End Of The Tour – wrapped around David Foster Wallace like his famous bandana. Woven all-too-frequently into the substance of his conversation with David Lipsky: the ravages of a cruelly oppressive internal voice. I left the theater feeling: “devastating. That’s the only word for it.” It is devastating. I can’t tell you how often I sit in my office helping people struggle against very similar self-loathing voices. These voices can ruin a life. Cast out hope. Create absolute...

Asif Kapadia's deeply truthful,Amy, makes clear to me, as a psychoanalyst, that although Amy Winehouse predicted fame would “drive her mad,” it was more her psychological troubles that set her on a fatal downward course. The lyrics to What Is It About Men - “my Freudian fate. History repeats itself. It fails to die,” touch the surface of those troubles. Yet, it’s not so simply that she “emulated all the shit her mother hated” or her animal aggression or taking someone else’s guy. Her real Freudian fate was hidden in her bulimic struggle. It’s what eclipsed the real Amy –...

Amy Winehouse tragically became the brunt of cruel jokes by comics the likes of Jay Leno. Every symptom of her psychological suffering was up for grabs: her bulimia, her drug addiction, and her state of mind: “She’s like a mad person.” Amy, the sensitive, sad, and revealing documentary by Asif Kapadia, sets those who brutally misunderstood her straight. There’s nothing funny about psychological troubles. In real footage of Amy from her childhood to the end, Kapadia gives us an emotionally raw window into the real Amy Winehouse. Her family and ex-boyfriend may criticize him for getting some things wrong. We’ll...

Woody Allen's new film, The Irrational Man, gives us a troubled philosophy professor, Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix), in an existential crisis. Although Abe is an expert in Existentialism, he can’t live its system of belief. He’d have to find meaning in his life and live it to its fullest, in spite of its limits (or his past). Abe can’t. He lives in despair, and this despair leads him to an irrational act. Yet, the clues to why he does what he does are lost in an imbalanced amount of philosophizing. The character of Abe Lucas could have used a script...