Friday, October 4, 2013

Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian (2013) New York Film Festival 2013

Blackfoot Indian Jimmy Picard hasn’t been right since he came back from the second world war. Showing signs of brain trauma, headaches, occasional blindness and other symptoms, he travels from his home with his sister to a VA hospital in Topeka. There the doctors are baffled, he seems medically fine, but his problems persist. Could it be mental illness? Or could it be his native American background colliding with modern life? Unsure of what to do the doctors call in Georges Devereux anthropologist who also is a psychologist/psychiatrist as a last resort.

Based on a true story of a well-chronicled case of the talking cure this is film that is much too short for what it is. Less a whole film rather than a series of connected moments the film feels like this is a short version of a much longer film. Many sequences seem to start in the middle, there are references to things we never see and more telling a sense of an entire world that’s off screen. Normally its great when a film creates a world that bleeds off the screen, but in this case there is too much off screen. There is a sense we should know more about Mathieu Amalric‘s Devereux and his life in Europe. Also there isn’t a great deal of shading to Benicio Del Toro‘s Jimmy P. While we do find out a great deal about the troubles that sent him to the hospital, there is little sense to him as anything other than a giant wound. (I’m also incredibly disappointed the scenes involving Jimmy P at home are so cliché in the handling.) There is so much more to explore here that we never see.

Problems with the script aside the performances by Amalric and Del Toro are incredible and when the two begin to talk to each other you don’t want the exchanges to stop. When both actors are on screen sparks fly. Its such a joy to watch two actors at the top of their game tearing it all up. I just wish that there was more of the session for a longer duration- yes we get lots of scenes between the pair, but rarely do they go on for anything other than a couple of minutes. They are supposed to be spending an hour a day together and we should have gotten a sense of what at least one full session was really like, especially toward the end as Jimmy makes progress. The fact that the don’t go on longer is a major disappointment in the film.

While far from a bad film, it is quite good when firing on all its cylinders, outside of the across the board great performances, this film isn’t anything special.

Sadly this film about the talking cure is not a film that we’re likely to be talking about a couple of weeks after it’s theatrical release.

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