Madness in the movie: in defence of going gothic

the Guardian | 1/24/2020 | Phil Hoad


It probably qualifies as a collective delusion that Arnold Schwarzenegger was a leading means of on-screen male wish-fulfilment in the 1980s. More than 30 years on, male wish-fulfilment still comes with those facilely superior Schwarzenegger features attached. His son, Patrick, plays the childhood imaginary friend who comes to the aid of a depressed student photographer in the new mental health-themed psychodrama Daniel Isn’t Real. At first, Daniel is egging on beleaguered Luke (Miles Robbins) to play the sensitive artist for the ladies; next thing, the alter ego is hijacking Luke’s body to engage in rough sex in underground tunnels and murdering his therapist.

Adam Egypt Mortimer’s film is good unclean fun, Luke’s psychological meltdown slathered all over in gooey effects. But, as you are probably gathering, it’s not the most sensitive depiction of mental illness ever made. It seems to pick up where Joker, another showboating work about a toxic proxy, left off. Medical professionals rounded on Todd Phillips’s film, accusing it of perpetuating “the hackneyed association between serious mental illness and extreme violence”. Into the same discourse, which is demanding greater care in terms of how mental health is represented on screen, swaggers Daniel Isn’t Real. It will face the same question: is this outré, batshit-crazy approach still acceptable?

Upswell - Discussion - Illness - Increase - Films

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the upswell of public discussion around mental illness hasn’t resulted in a sudden increase in films about the subject. It’s a complex topic, rarely box-office gold. But the acknowledgement that mentally ill characters shouldn’t be consigned to the asylum of the criminally insane, like Psycho’s Norman Bates, dates back some time now. From One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) to A Beautiful Mind (2001) to Silver Linings Playbook (2012), there has been more of a consensus that the mentally ill are protagonists, not villains, and deserve a sympathetic hearing....
(Excerpt) Read more at: the Guardian
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