SHRINK * * 1/2













CAST: Kevin Spacey, Robin Williams, Dallas Roberts, Saffron Burrows, Mark Webber, Pell James, Keke Palmer, Jack Huston, Robert Loggia, Gore Vidal, Laura Ramsey, Jesse Plemons, Joel Gretsch

DIRECTOR: Jonas Pate

SCREENWRITER: Thomas Moffett

How's this for ballsy casting? Kevin Spacey, who, thanks to a long line of pathetic flops, sank far below the super-stardom he achieved with “American Beauty” in 1999, plays Henry Carter, a close-to-catatonic, drugged-up therapist to the stars. And his most illustrious analysand, a drunken, horrifically horny movie idol, is played by Robin Williams, an actor whose real-life career, like that of Spacey’s, has suffered a notable nosedive.

These two are not the only screwed-up individuals in this wacky, amusingly nasty but uneven X-ray of the wormy underbelly of 21st-century Hollywood. Also in the spotlight are  Dallas Roberts as a paranoid agent who insists on baring his infested soul to the ever-yawning Dr. Carter; Saffron Burrows as an aging actress no longer able to compete for roles with bed-hopping teen celebs; Joel Gretsch, as her narcissistic husband, a red-hot-and-womanizing country singer; Jack Huston (grandson of director John Huston) as a wild Irish stud in demand at the major studios until he decides to make the leap from booze to bigger drugs; Jesse Plemmons as a gentle dope dealer named Jesus; and, in a weird cameo, Gore Vidal as a pompous TV interviewer grappling with Dr. Carter’s on-camera decision to label his own best-selling self-help book as “bullshit.”

Much of this indie from youthful director Jonas Pate and screenwriter Thomas Moffett is entertaining and on target, and we should be grateful to them for getting the enormously gifted Spacey and Williams back on the right track, as well as providing a juicy showcase for the splendid Dallas Roberts, who makes being heartless seem like a helluva lot of fun.

Yet you might consider heading for the exit before the final 20 minutes of the film. That’s when everything turns inexplicably soft, including the endearing hardness of most of the principal characters. Be prepared for tearful revelations about the suicides of certain loved ones and, in a sappy subplot, the rise of a high-school dropout to the position of a major Hollywood player (a role played with an astonishing lack of embarrassment by luminous Keke Palmer).

Why, one wonders, did these 20/20-visioned filmmakers shrink from a properly tough, unblinking ending?


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