It’s frightening how quickly freedom can disappear. We have to watch out for those complicated forces, in the outside world and living inside us, that want to deceive us if we aren’t aware. Cabaret is a powerful and disturbing illustration, plus a startling reminder, of the various ways these dangers lurk. Over Labor Day weekend, I saw a remarkable performance of Cabaret at the Celebration Theater at The Lex in Hollywood. Director Michael Matthews’ version of this well known and loved musical crosses all conceivable boundaries; anything goes. And, then, it doesn’t. If you’ve seen Cabaret, you know the play takes place...

Jon Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians is about crazy wealth. But it’s really about so much more. It’s about the clashes between old money and new; between privilege and disadvantage; between American born Asians and those calling Asia home; between following passion and giving into duty. Mostly it's about a boyfriend's mother's envy. And, at the film’s center we find this conflict between a traditional Singaporean mother and her son’s Asian American girlfriend. At an even deeper level, Crazy Rich Asians is really about two different parts of that mother battling against each other. The Girlfriend Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is the youngest...

  *Spoiler Alert: Don’t Read Until You’ve Seen This Film* The Wife slowly and disturbingly reveals many things about Joan Castleman (Glenn Close) and her marriage to 1992 Nobel Prize Winner, Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce). She’s lived a lie. She’s allowed it. She’s become merely “the wife.” But, when Joe asks her, as she finally gains courage to leave him after almost 40 years: “Why did you marry me,” she has no idea. Why Joan married him is a good question. But, the more important question is why she’d sell her soul for love? That can only be answered by looking at the...

Welcome, readers. Characters On the Couch and my blogging on film is back with Three Identical Strangers and a subject I'm passionate about: the lasting effects of separation trauma. I took an almost four-month hiatus to build out my new office at 435 N. Bedford Drive, Suite 406, Beverly Hills, CA 90210 – a lovely and peaceful new space for my much loved clinical work and writing. That wasn’t the only thing, though. Along with the demands of the office build out, I also needed time to write a chapter on Pedro Almodovar’s film, Broken Embraces, for an exciting new book. Pedro...

Cruelty and misunderstanding can make you a monster or a mute. Guillermo del Toro’s compelling allegorical fable, The Shape of Water, shows us that quite well. We can say all the obvious things about this multi-layered film set in its backdrop of the Cold War and a high-security government laboratory in 1962 Baltimore. There’s loneliness and loss; competition between the United States and Russia to have the first man in Space; fear, paranoia, dehumanization and exploitation of people and creatures. There’s the overriding do whatever it takes kind of brutality to be the one on top. Yet, there’s also that...

Leo Hurwitz was a pioneer in the development of documentary film in America, but he wasn’t the only pioneer in the Hurwitz family. His older sisters Rosetta (Rose) and Marie were pioneers in bringing child psychoanalysis to the United States. They were among the first child analysts to train with Anna Freud in Vienna in the mid-1920s and, on return to New York City; they were the first child analysts in America. Yet, because of the controversy over lay analysts in this country, Marie and Rose’s significant role in the history of child analysis is largely unrecognized. This is my...

Memories and fantasies originating in childhood influence the course of a life as it unfolds. So do childhood experiences. If someone has a strong creative spirit, as Leo Hurwitz did, these impressionable early times find powerful forms of expression in their creative work. This is certainly true for Leo. Leo’s films speak for those abandoned by the societies they live in and for those who have no voice. We already know Leo’s family of origin had a strong social conscience. Yet, what are some of the personal, early, even unconscious sources leading to Leo’s passion? Thanks to direct quotes from family...

PTSD always follows trauma. No traumatized person is “strong” enough to escape it. Yet, for complicated reasons, Post Traumatic Stress symptoms are too frequently off everyone’s radar, particularly the radar of the one suffering. The reasons are both straight out of the DSM-V and very individual. Jeff Bauman’s story in David Gordon Green’s powerful new film, Stronger, with Jake Gyllenhaal’s deeply moving performance as Jeff and Tatiana Maslany’s complex and engagingly real portrayal of his girlfriend, Erin Hurley, is a good place to start understanding what happens after trauma. ...

Leo Hurwitz (1909 – 1991), pioneer documentary filmmaker, was part of a small group who founded America’s documentary film and invented the social documentary form. According to his son, Tom Hurwitz, Leo’s films “exemplified a new way of making films about the real world, and about ideas that help us to understand it. He and his group saw these films as an antidote to the films of Hollywood that gave the audience dreams of escape.” Leo’s films spoke to various human rights concerns; problems he became aware of, early in his life, growing up in his socially conscious family. Leo...

The big question in Josh Kreigman and Elyse Steinberg’s documentary Weiner is: “What’s wrong with Anthony Weiner?” Why would a political official destroy his reputation and his career? Why would he humiliate his wife? Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC’s Last Word posed this million-dollar question to Weiner on national TV: “What is wrong with you…I mean psychiatrically?” O’Donnell’s question is exactly what everyone is asking. It’s a complex question about a sadly troubled man. The answers aren’t easily visible. Watching Weiner, we see Anthony Weiner pulled into a vortex of something dark and disturbed in his mind; something he can’t...