'Shrink:' A ridiculous twist of fate, without a feel for reality

By now, we all know about the white Cambridge cop and the black Harvard professor.

You can imagine them, maybe, meeting for a beer of reconciliation at the behest of President Obama.

What you can't imagine is the professor getting into a near-fatal car accident and being rescued, coincidentally, by the same cop he alleged to have hassled him.

That would be a ridiculous twist of fate.

But that's what happened in "Crash" (remember Thandie Newton and Matt Dillon?) and the only penalty "Crash" paid for this outrageous narrative coincidence was winning an Oscar.

And so the message went out - no coincidence linking the disparate elements of an ensemble drama is too outrageous to preclude Oscar consideration. "Crash" yielded "Babel" and "Crossing Over" and now "Shrink."

Jonas Pate's "Shrink" is also set in Los Angeles, wherein the lives of half a dozen characters intersect in ways that are serendipitous and ridiculous - serendiculous, if you prefer.

The title refers to a psychoanalyst to the stars played by Kevin Spacey, in full smoking-dope-to-ease-his-societal-detachment mode.

He's grieving for his dead wife, and trying to remain interested in his patients - a girl with her own family tragedy, a sex-addicted movie star (Robin Williams), a high-powered talent agent (Dallas Roberts, who's obviously watched "Entourage"). He's also hanging out with a budding screenwriter (Philadelphia native Mark Webber), who is observing the doctor's nutty practice and taking notes.

Pate understands the life of the screenwriter, and there is some substance to Webber's character, who works as a valet to make money and to hustle his scripts to Hollywood's powerful.

But Pate has no feel for Spacey's character, whose unprofessional, unethical and simply unbelievable behavior rings false at almost every turn (even by the dismal standards of the modern movie shrink).

A scene in which Spacey's character reproaches friends for arranging an intervention on his behalf reeks of showboating and (especially as subsequent actions seem to vindicate the intervention).

Nothing is quite so fraudulent, though, as the moment when we realize the only way Pate can contrive to have one character discover her betrayal at the hand of another is to have the typed-up evidence literally dropped at her feet by a random, butter-fingered passerby.

It's almost farcical, and at some point, Judd Apatow is going to make one of these movies as a comedy, the way he skewered the musical biopic with Dewey Cox.


Shrink

Directed by Jonas Pate. With Dallas Roberts, Saffron Burrows, Robert Loggia, Kevin Spacey, Jack Huston, Pell James, Keke Palmer, Laura Ramsey, Gore Vidal, Griffin Dunne. Distributed by Roadside Attractions.

Running time: 1 hours, 50 minutes.

Parent's guide: R (for drug content throughout,and pervasive language including some sexual references).