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The Lens: 'Shrink' is too predictable

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 24, 2009 - Sneaking onto video shelves on Sept. 29 after a very brief contractually obligated theatrical run, "Shrink" is a very busy yet self-consciously laid back film in which several Los Angeles-based characters intermingle a la "Crash."

There's a grief-stricken psychiatrist (Kevin Spacey) who'd rather smoke dope than tend to his patients, a grief-stricken high-school student who'd rather go to the movies than attend classes, a small handful of neurotic film stars (with all the usual addictions), a dope dealer, an aspiring screenwriter, a stereotypically arrogant agent (do they really train these guys by making them watch a complete season of "Entourage"?) and his hard-working assistant with a heart as big as her swollen belly (she's a surrogate mother), all crossing paths and sharing symptoms as they wind their way around and through the fringes of the movie industry. (Los Angeles is, after all, a company town).

It's attractively photographed, mostly well acted (by Spacey, Robin Williams and a few less familiar faces), but its charm is offset by predictability. With so many well-meaning characters running into each other, you know that some sort of low-level spiritual awakening will eventually take over.

Redemption, when it comes, is irritatingly constricted in its view of show business as a microcosm of modern life. It's as if the figures in "Shrink" are being watched over by an omniscient figure, but it just turns out to be Syd Field or Robert McKee standing by with a stop-watch to make sure the first act plot points and character arcs are all in the right places.

Unfortunately, neither director Jonas Pate nor writer Thomas Moffett seem to notice the facile nature of their uplift or the narrow scope of the film's existential dilemmas. "Shrink" is a second-hand moral tale, with a morality derived solely from what they've seen in other movies: At the end, the characters are all united by - what else? - the sale of a screenplay.

The Lens is the blog of Cinema St. Louis, hosted by the Beacon.