M. Night Shyamalan’s new psychological horror film, The Visit, has twists and turns and unexpected surprises that I wouldn’t think of revealing. Of course, this film has one of Shyamalan’s shock endings – it wouldn’t be a Shyamalan film without it. But for me as a psychoanalyst, there’s something else of more interest. What this film’s characters tell us about the ability or inability to work out the sometimes very scary feelings of loss and guilt. In The Visit, we have a family – a Mom (Kathryn Hahn), a 15-year-old daughter, Becca (Olivia DeJonge), and a 13-year-old son, Tyler (Ed Oxenbould)...

Never stop a depressed person from talking. Never say, “It’s all in your head.” It’s not. There are reasons for every depression. Including Soso’s, in Season 3 of Orange Is The New Black, if Healy cared to listen. Certainly, never say: “No wonder you don’t have friends. No one wants to be with a sad person who mopes around.” That’s cruel - and only makes the self-loathing voice (in every depressed person’s mind) louder. Therapy should be a safe place to talk about anything – to be listened to without judgment. As Berdie Rogers (Marsha Stephanie Blake) says: "When someone's feeling...

As secrets continue to unfold in Episode 3 of American Crime, drugs, sex, and complicated family histories are increasingly implicated in the crime against Matt and Gwen. Drugs and sex are not infrequently turned to as ‘answers’ to various kinds of desperate circumstances and pasts. Gwen turned to sex. Matt turned to drugs. Aubrey Taylor (Caitlin Gerard) turns to both. What kind of escape is she desperately clinging to?  What role does calling her foster dad serve?  Does she want his help or something else? “With this life sometimes bad things come your way. That’s when you get a little desperate,”...

SPOILER ALERT: You might not want to read this post until you’ve watched the entire series. It’s terribly difficult to write a comedy about something as traumatic as kidnapping, sexual exploitation, and brainwashing. Netflix’s The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock) tries to do just that. Does it work? Is there a message within the lighthearted bandying about of these serious topics? As a psychologist, I don’t see one. Kimmy’s (Ellie Kemper) story: kidnapped in eighth grade by a preacher who claimed to be saving her and 3 other women from the apocalypse. Held in an...

Watching Billie Woodruff’s Addicted, I could barely restrain myself from grabbing a tomato and joining my Rotten Tomatoes compadres in throwing it at the screen. The 8% of critics who gave their approval of this psychologically offensive project must have been feeling particularly generous that day. What could have been a sensitive and even insightful look at a woman struggling through the throes of sexual addiction was instead a misguided mess that—not withstanding the cast of beautiful actors who appear in various stages of undress throughout—was often difficult to watch. I’m not usually one to have such extreme reactions to a film, but I was squirming...

MY OLD LADY Film Review — The way any one of us lives with the past is a complicated thing. My Old Lady, a deeply psychological and sometimes shockingly honest film written and directed by Israel Horovitz, takes us layer upon layer into the kinds of deeply wrought emotional problems living with a difficult past can bring. Matthias Gold (Kevin Kline) lives with his past misdirected in self-hate. Matthilde Girard (Maggie Smith) lives with hers in denial. Chloe Girard (Kristin Scott Thomas), Matthilde’s daughter, is coldly shut down. The past, as My Old Lady shows us, lives in all of us unconsciously. My Old Lady is Matthias Gold’s...

LOVE IS STRANGE — Ben (John Lithgow) and George’s (Alfred Molina) relationship, in Ira Sach’s virtuoso film, Love Is Strange, celebrates the best of love. Love can bring many things – happiness, joy and companionship, yes. But, also, conflict, mismatch, disappointment, hurt, and loss.  The specialness of Love Is Strange is how this film gives us an open window into just what adult grown-up healthy love is all about. The central theme in Love Is Strange is, of course, love. The film is also about discrimination and the stresses and strains on a family when a family member is in crisis. At its heart, though, Love Is Strange is, purely...

Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s beautiful new film, is so compellingly real it’s easy to forget we aren’t watching a 12-year documentary of an actual family. With deft cinematic strokes, Linklater melds one phase of this family’s life, and Mason’s (Ellar Coltrane) journey through adolescence from ages 6 - 18, seamlessly into the next. Yet, Linklater’s interest in realities underscores the fact that life is anything but seamless - a pretty harsh and at times discouraging truth. But, the director also gives us a not-insignificant take-away gift voiced by Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), to his son: “What’s the point? Point is –...

BUYER AND CELLAR REVIEW — If you haven’t seen Jonathan Tolins’ hit off-Broadway play Buyer and Cellar at the Mark Taper Forum in Downtown Los Angeles run—don’t walk (or, should I say, Google the show?)—to get tickets as fast as you can before the comedy concludes its LA run on on Sunday, August 17th.  You absolutely don’t want to miss Michael Urie’s laugh-out-loud, one-man show or his impeccable comedic timing. This spoof on Barbra Streisand’s famed shopping mall in her cellar (that part is truth not fiction) with Urie as “salesman” (the salesman part is fiction, at least we think so!) could easily have been a predictable story about excess, but thankfully...

[caption id="attachment_817" align="alignleft" width="500"]eszdx photo credit: Peggy Sirota[/caption]AUGUST 11 — I was shocked and saddened to hear of Robin Williams’ untimely death and tragic suicide. My heart goes out to his family and loved ones in this time of excruciating loss. The rest of us, who loved him in our own ways, have lost a brilliant talent, a comedic master, and a deeply moving dramatic actor whose roles in Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting, Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poet’s Society and one of my personal favorites for sentimental reasons – Flubber – will live on and never be forgotten. Right now, though, it’s hard to get farther than...