Shrink opens with an ostentatious montage of psychiatrist-to-the-stars Henry (Kevin Spacey) chain-smoking joints at home in bed, the shower, the car, and outside of his Hollywood Hills office. Therefore it’s tough to blame Spacey for adopting a listless, droopy-eyed demeanor for the duration of the film, even though this choice doubles the actor’s already existing Human Xanax factor and confuses scenes in which he looks flatly disinterested while engaged in heavy conversations with patients. His eyes also occasionally drift off into space during sessions, though this could be Spacey’s involuntary response to the inane, uninteresting blather coming from this poorly-conceived roster of Hollywood types: There’s anxious-about-aging A-list actress Kate (Saffron Burrows), faux-idealistic young scribe Jeremy (Mark Webber), skirt-chasing alcoholic and comedy star Holden (Robin Williams, brightening up the film in his few scenes), and obnoxious talent agent Patrick (a hugely broad Dallas Roberts).
Though it never rains frogs in Shrink, the influence of Magnolia on this sprawling portrait of West L.A.‘s rich-and-miserable couldn’t be more pronounced, both in terms of specific scene homages (type-A misogynist Patrick stalking through office corridors as he berates people on the phone, soul-sick Henry breaking down during the taping of an antiquated TV show) and in its aggressive use of coincidence to sell the notion of Hollywood as a place where lucky, even magical things can happen. Magnolia, though, had a foundation of richly satisfying individual scenes on which to build self-aware contrivances, with the result being a form of successful Brechtianism; in contrast, Shrink is contrived from top to bottom. Its multiple vignettes of lonely Angelenos feeling each other out are often listless and uninspired, such as with Henry’s go-nowhere flirtations with Kate, as well as being occasionally grating and dramatically unconvincing, such as with Henry’s confession sessions with a compassionate pot dealer and his pro bono appointments with troubled African-American teen, Jemma (Keke Palmer).
Ordered into involuntary therapy with Henry after a violent episode at school, the abrasive Jemma is quickly revealed to be a classic film buff who quotes Ordinary People and frequents the local restoration cinema; it’s a trait that feels tacked on at the outset, as if director Jonas Pate believes that every resident of L.A. Country shares Nora Ephron’s brain, but it becomes even more untenable when it’s used to lay the tracks for the film’s absurd eye-roller of a third act, which lays waste to much of the weak character building that’s come before. Shrink is ultimately an ain’t-Hollywood-grand film masquerading as a boy-L.A.-sucks film and relies too heavily on well-trafficked industry clichés and shopworn stereotypes of Tinseltown neuroticism to make a true impact. That said, Williams gets in a couple of great one-liners in a scene in which his character calls bullshit on movie junkets.