Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s kooky and touching new film, Mistress America, gives us Brooke Cardenas (Greta Gerwig), a 30-year-old autodidact, full of life and ideas, but stuck. She can’t get her life off the ground. She needs help, but help makes her feel small: “There’s nothing I don’t know about myself. That’s why I can’t go to therapy. ”What do you do when you have to cover up your shame for not being able to figure things out for yourself? You either keep running from one thing to the next, or … how about a psychic? You can just drop in...

I just watched the trailer for Jake Gyllenhaal's upcoming 2016 film, Demolition, about the aftermath of his character, Davis’s, sudden loss of his wife, Julia. Loss can take many forms. As the trailer shows, Davis unravels. He can’t pull himself together. His father-in-law tries to encourage him to rebuild his life. To do so, he demolishes the house he lived in with his wife – in an attempt to move past his old life and go on.  Grieving really doesn’t work well that way. It’s an interesting premise. Yet, as a psychologist who works with grief, I can’t agree that dealing...

  Alert: Possible Spoilers How can someone do exactly to other people what’s been done to him? That’s the big psychological question in Ramin Bahrani’s new film, 99 Homes. How can Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) become right hand man to the very real estate developer (Michael Shannon) who callously uses the housing market collapse to repossess and evict him (and countless others) from his foreclosed home? In these men, we find two disparate answers to how someone becomes exactly what he starts out hating. As the film begins, there’s a bloody bathroom and dead body – a man who couldn’t face losing his home. To developer...

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...

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 –...

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...

How is a little girl destined to live her life when her father gives her this reason for leaving her Mom: “Monogamy isn’t realistic … What if that’s the only doll you’ll ever get to play with your whole life? You wouldn’t want just one doll, would you? That’s why Mom and I are getting divorced.” With a father like that, a father you love with all your heart as Amy does – how can a girl trust love? Amy Schumer’s pulled off a delightful rom-com with a lot of meaty psychological truth for a psychoanalyst like me to comment on....

Take a musical genius and sensitive boy. Say that boy hears musical notes and whole ensembles in his head. Add a jealous and demeaning father. What’s the result? Critical voices in that boy’s head fighting with the songs and the self that are trying to come alive. Mix in drugs and alcohol to shut those voices up. Ingest an overdose of a grandiose, self-serving, controlling, unethical, abusively critical psychologist. What do you get, then? You get Brian Wilson’s story and a very near psychological disaster. That is – until love and mercy in the form of Melinda Ledbetter walked in. Bill...

Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young is much more than a look at how youth wants to outdo the old, how the older envy youth, and how a mid-life crisis leads to all kinds of desperate shenanigans. It’s also the story of 40-something Josh (Ben Stiller) who can’t move forward for complex psychological reasons. And, of 20-something Jamie (Adam Driver) who gives us a pretty good clue about what Josh is afraid of. Josh, a documentary filmmaker, has had some success, but nothing like his father-in law, Leslie Breitbart (Charles Grodin). Leslie’s famous. This makes Josh feel small in comparison. He can’t...

On the 25th Anniversary of Pretty Woman’s release, the question for some still remains: Does Pretty Women take the seriousness of prostitution and the misuse of vulnerable women too lightly? Or is there more to the film than that? As a psychoanalyst who just re-watched this spirited and poignant film, I think there’s more. Sexual exploitation is a grave issue. Yet that’s not the point of Pretty Woman. Certain critics might say it should be. But, the fact is - Edward (Richard Gere) and Vivian (Julia Roberts) rescue each other from some serious fears and fantasies about relationships. There’s quite a lot to learn...