DALLAS BUYERS CLUB — There are two radical choices when faced with a death sentence: jolt into a potent sobriety and fight to live. Or, sink into despair so deep that drugs are a greater solace than fighting the monster killing you. Ron Woodroof, played brilliantly by Matthew McConaughey (Golden Globe Best Actor), chooses the former. But Rayon, a transgender woman, played with magnificent pathos by Jared Leto (Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor) can’t stop her harmful behaviors. What are the driving forces (emotional ones, that is) behind an out of character transformation versus self-destruction? Ron Woodroof, whose real life story Dallas Buyers Club tells,...

  THE WOLF OF WALL STREET — Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street is an indulgently voyeuristic picture of MORE, MORE, MORE, at every level. Money, sex, drugs – there’s no stopping the film’s main characters, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his cohorts, from their purely hedonistic pursuits. And, yet, that’s still not enough. Is Martin Scorsese secretly enthralled and glorifying debauchery, as some critics and viewers suggest? Or, is his three-hour film really meant to take us inside the depraved minds of men who are completely out for themselves and have absolutely no capacity for human concern? What pushes someone, like Belfort, over...

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY — A mother’s hate inflicts the worst kind of suffering. There’s not one child among the main characters in August: Osage County who escapes. Not Violet, not Mattie Faye, not Barbara, Karen, Ivey, or even little Charles. Most of the film’s immediate suffering is at the hands of Violet Westin, the cruel matriarch of the Westin family. There’s certainly no excuse for a mother’s cruelty. Yet, can it be understood?  Even more importantly, how does a daughter save herself? Can a relationship with a mother like Violet ever change? In some rather twisted irony (at least to me as a psychoanalyst), August:...

AMERICAN HUSTLE — David O. Russell’s American Hustle is a cinematic treatise on the complexities of survival. Irving Rosenfeld, Sydney Prosser (AKA Lady Edith Greensley), Richie DiMaso, and Rosalyn Rosenfeld are each, in their own uniquely perverse and destructive ways, just trying to survive. But, are they? If we remove ourselves from the intrigue of the hustle itself (based upon the FBI Abscam operation of 1980), what exactly can we learn about this particular brand of self-serving (or should I say, rather desperate) psychological survival? Each member of this troubled cast of characters is trying to “survive” the limits of their real identities. As Irving...

SAVING MR. BANKS — Saving Mr. Banks takes many of us back to delicious childhood memories of Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke singing “Jolly Holiday,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” and “A Spoonful of Sugar Makes The Medicine Go Down.” What we couldn’t know as children is the heartbreaking story behind PL Travers’ Mary Poppins; a trauma so deep a spoonful of kindness would never be enough to turn it around. Fighting Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and his team at every step in the making of Disney’s Mary Poppins, PL Travers (Emma Thompson) disdainfully shakes her head: “You think Mary Poppins came to save...

ENOUGH SAID — If you’re a divorced or divorcing woman, you can probably relate to Eva’s (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) struggle to open her heart to Albert (James Gandolfini) in Enough Said. Readiness for a relationship after a divorce is not easy for many reasons. But, what undermines a post-divorce relationship faster than anything else is fear. Especially fear that comes with an underlying certainty you will be hurt again. Fear takes many forms. Think about Eva, whose fear is particularly self-defeating. Remember when she’s giving the poet Marianne a massage as Marianne chatters away with one criticism after another of her ex-husband? The man...