If you’ve watched HBO’s “In Treatment” and a few of the spin offs, this indie from 2008 adapts a stereotype that many psychology students hear — the shrinks are more screwed up than their patients.
Famous Hollywood actress Diane Rischard (Barbara Winters) has a promising career until stricken by paralyzing panic attacks that occur when the cameras start rolling. You’ve known thespians who have a bit of stage fright, but he’s a professional that now has anxious fears any time the cameras start running. How can a movie actress continue a career under those conditions?
Her studio ships her off to a low rent district of Pittsburgh, where a quirky, offbeat psychologist (Joe Giacobello) has been recommended. Contrary to all the patient/therapist ethics, to keep her presence under wraps, she and Joe (who’s the writer, director and star) move into his bachelor pad where his unconventional ‘therapy’ can be 24/7.
After the awkwardness of the living together circumstance, the therapist comes up with several fun, let her hair down antics, such as spraying cream all over each other (fully clothed), wrapping in plastic, yoga, and other absurdities. Obviously, the two start developing a romantic flair and one of the touching moments comes with an in the floor picnic (hey, I’ve been to a few of those!).
As Diane explores her camera fright, Joe reveals demons in his past — a car accident in which a significant other died as he was driving her over a bridge into the city. That’s his River Stxy. Now, the romantic comedy takes a gender warfare incorrect stance — the actress with a phobia could help the therapist with a fear and vice versa. It’s their personality differences — extroversion versus introversion, spontaneity versus caution, openness versus quietness — that actually bond them together, completing aspects of their personalities and personas that they would not have the courage to partake without the non-judgmental support from each other.
In this aspect, “Doin’ Therapy” has a few resemblances to Dani Englander’s “Two Fireflies,” in which a woman in her 30s befriends a widower in his 50s, not for a May to December romance, but a good old fashioned opposite sex friendship where each again inspire confidence and contribute traits that alone the characters would not have undertaken. (Best scenes: She has him actively Internet dating and interviewing potential dates like you would professionals with resumes.)
“Therapy” has not obtained a theatrical release, although it’s been shown at several festivals, including one in Cleveland, Ohio.
This is a warm, fuzzy, and quirky comedy/drama, which despite a few acting flaws and low budget betrayals, has such irony and reality. (I, for one, knew an actress who suffered stage fright; and, of course, I do still fear driving after a fiery car accident. With just a little more nurture time and encouragement, that lady might have had me back behind the wheel. She has since been on stage.)
Winters and Giacobello interact well in depicting development of unconventional problem solving skills as well as the gradually growing baby steps to overcoming their fears.
Congrats to two semi-familiar Huntington/Marshall faces too — Katherine (“Lake Forest”) Leslie has a small part as well as former MU theatre student, Patty (“Oklahoma,” Noises Off”) Burgess, who plays a journalist.
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