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 –...

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 –...

  12 YEARS A SLAVE — Some people need someone to hate. In Jean Paul Sartre’s essay, “Anti-Semite and Jew,” he says: “If the Jew did not exist, the anti-Semite would invent him.” I don’t think it’s a far leap to put the history of Blacks in America in the same category. The important question is why? Why does this need to have someone to hate (or someone to control and use for one’s own psychological purposes) operate more intensely in some people? Like in Edwin Epps, the vicious slave master (Michael Fassbender), in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. The true story of Solomon...

HER — Spike Jonze is interested in loneliness. His new film, Her, is a semi-futuristic exploration of one lonely man’s struggle to learn what love is and what love is not. Here’s what we know about Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix). He has a broken heart. His marriage to Catherine has come to a devastatingly sad end. At BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com, he writes heartfelt, warm, romantic letters; to other people’s loves. The feelings he puts in the letters mean nothing to him. He’s afraid to open his heart again. Why is he so scared? Having his wife leave him doesn’t help. But, where else might...

NEBRASKA — What does a son do when he feels his dad doesn’t love him? Either silently withdraw or take the road trip of his life to just spend a little time together. Director Alexander Payne has done it brilliantly again. Nebraska isn’t the road trip we took in Sideways. It’s a father-son road trip, and a touchingly redemptive ride it is, from Billings, Montana to Omaha, Nebraska with a stop in the fictional Hawthorne along the way. This beautiful, character-driven film, with a virtuoso performance by Bruce Dern as Woody Grant and a touching Will Forte as his son, David, asks a tough...

FEB 28, 2014 — Characters on the Couch founder, Dr. Sandra Cohen, appeared on today’s News Nation with Tamron Hall to discuss the 2014 Oscar Best Picture film nominees, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, and The Wolf of Wall Street....

Life In Space Is Impossible GRAVITY — What kind of beautiful and terrifying space doesGravity tell us about? The vast reaches of outer space, to be sure. Alfonso Cuaron’s film, Gravity, is a cinematographically beautiful cliffhanger of a space odyssey. Yet, there is a compelling psychological subtext: the gravity of Dr. Ryan Stone’s unresolved grief. What does a lonely woman, with absolutely no one, do when she’s lost the only person who gave her life the least bit of meaning?  She goes into the silence of an internal space - as far away from reality as she can, and with questionable desire to return....