“Bad Therapy” is a dark comedy about a couple who fall victim to a very disturbed and manipulative therapist, it has elements of promise, and indeed it’s a shame they never figure out how to mold it in a satisfying way.
Directed by William Teitler and adapted by Nancy Doyne from her novel of the same title, this all-star independent film is a cross-genre mix that never finds a meaningful line in terms of tone, theme, and worldview. A low-stakes, well-acted misunderstanding scene of the sort you’d expect to see in another series will be followed by a scene of big comic acts, then a scene of sexual threat, then a scene of shocking violence, then back again. problems of married people and so on.
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Alicia Silverstone plays Susan Howard, a real estate agent who has a daughter from a previous marriage, Louise (Anna Pniowsky). She shares a beautiful bungalow in Los Angeles with her husband, Nature Channel producer Bob Howard (Rob Corddry). When Susan’s best friend Roxy (Aisha Tyler) reveals she is pregnant with triplets, it triggers anxiety about unresolved tensions with Bob, and the two agree to enter marriage counseling with the same therapist who treated Roxy and her boyfriend. husband.
Unfortunately for the couple, the therapist, Judy Small (Michaela Watkins), is an unhinged manipulator who pulls the screws out of the Howards’ brains and rummages through their subconscious minds, looking for buttons to destroy. Judy then convinces Susan and Bob to start seeing her individually, but not as a couple. She fills her imagination with doubts, lies and certain clues that trigger her self-destructive tendencies as well as her inclinations to distrust her partner.
Why is Judy very bad news? She has her reasons. But the film takes a while to explore them. And once shown, the character becomes less intriguing than when she was a mysterious agent of chaos, because plausible psychology is not something that wants to be addressed much in this film, but in my view it shouldn’t be; many movies don’t make sense that way, but still manage to thrill, amuse, etc… . However, it failed on certain issues. “Bad Therapy” is realistic enough in its treatment of characters to make the scenes of manipulation and psychological and sexual violence feel a little artificial and limited.
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The cast is very talented and will make you forget for a bit that the movie isn’t all that great. Corddry plays anguished vulnerability well and is a smart counterpart to Silverstone, whose intonations invest even the most tedious expository lines with an element of surprise. Watkins gives Judy more than the movie; the script starts early with making the therapist freak out, to the point where it’s hard to accept that two smart, functioning adults would continue to see her for a long time.
“Bad Therapy” might remind moviegoers of the 1980s and 90s of a certain subgenre of thriller, in which an apparently happy bourgeois couple was terrorized by a figure that pursued them, representing their repressed desires or their unaddressed neuroses. But it’s not as focused as the best of these films, and the frequent touches of comedy that ease any tension the plot might feel.
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A top cinema master like Robert Altman (“The Player”, “Nashville”) may have struggled to unify such disparate elements. The film seems to have no idea why it is doing something from one scene to the next, but it has attractions too .