Looking at the filmography of Kevin Spacey, one can find a great range of roles where Spacey has demonstrated his mastery of acting. Some say he has a unique physicality or perhaps it is that excited and yet sometimes dreary voice that catchs our attention. Spacey himself is after all, a master of impersonations. Those great roles all have something in common that not even the most intelligent of critics can pinpoint what it is that makes a character just feel as if he/she should be played by Kevin Spacey. The other roles, the ones from the film that bombed, still features the Kevin Spacey we all know and enjoy, and yet usually the script or the direction or the lack of talented co-stars bring the film down with Spacey being the only memorable part of the whole experience.
Shrink unfortunately falls into the category of a poor Spacey film and it also goes along with the recent run of independent films that just seem to want to depress the audience while still being quirky (as if the filmmakers want to create the next Little Miss Sunshine or Juno). Spacey plays Henry Cater, who is a therapist that works in Hollywood. Carter is highly cynical and bitter while still maintaining the smarts to keep his 'Shrink-to-the-stars' business booming. Past this initial outline of the character, there is hardly any development in his characterization much like the other characters in the film. Carter begins to smoke a massive amount of pot and soon his patients begin to provide an intervention for him. Robin Williams plays a sex addict for a few scenes (and no, it is sadly a failed dramatic role for Williams) and Saffron Burrows plays an actress named Kate with marital problems and throw in a few more different characters with your typical therapy problems and all of the players in this movie just sit around and talk while their therapy (and character) seems to go nowhere. The film almost feels like a vaudeville, with different acts coming on and then going away with director Jonas Pate and screenwriter Thomas Moffet having decided to not make these characters as least complex as possible.
Keke Palmer (Akeelah and the Bee) plays Jemma, a girl who is mourning the death of her mother, and she is the only character that has any promise. Once again, not much development in the character herself but Palmer's sincerity in her performance allows for Spacey to also deliver his deepest scenes of the film and for a bit you almost want the two of them to just be the sole focus of the story. But Shrink remains as a bunch of ideas and outlines with no emotion (too much plot and too little characterization). It's a shame that Jonas Pate and co. aren't talented enough to do something unique with the rhythm of therapy, but what hasn't been done on the topic? Films or TV shows such as The Sopranos, In Treatment, Ordinary People, and Hurlyburly have already dealt with the topic of the power-play that goes on behind closed doors in your shrink's office while The Player has already demonstrated the ins and outs of managing Hollywood's elite. It would take a filmmaker who is very insightful and a film that isn't gloomy like this one, to be able to deliver a newfound experience in therapy.