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Well, this movie came out in 1999, and I actually got to see it in a theater, probably because I was living, at the time, somewhere that had a lot of theaters, including at least one art house (which is probably where I saw it, I don't remember for sure). Sometime after that, I got it on DVD, so I've seen it at least once since then, but I guess I didn't write a review at the time. Now here it is, 2012, and it's been years and years since I've watched it. But earlier today I was watching 120 Minutes, and there was a video by Mumford & Sons, which has absolutely nothing to do with this movie. But still, I chose to take it as a sign that I was meant to watch the movie tonight and write a review. So I shall. Anyway, it was never much of a critical or financial success, but I always liked it.
Okay, so there's this psychologist named Dr. Mumford (aka "Doc"), who had moved to the small town of Mumford (no relation) a few months ago, and in that time had become quite a popular therapist among the townsfolk. He treats a woman named Sofie Crisp (Hope Davis), who suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (which at the time, a lot of people, even in the medical community, were skeptical about being a real condition). He treats a woman named Althea Brockett (Mary McDonnell), who constantly buys all kinds of mail-order stuff, which she just hoards. Althea's son Martin (Jason Ritter) and daughter Katie (Elisabeth Moss) insisted she get help. Doc Mumford also treats a girl named Nessa Watkins (Zooey Deschanel), who... I dunno, her main thing seems to be that she wants to lose weight and can't... but doesn't need to, anyway. She probably has a general self esteem problem, but also a bit of an attitude. Oh, and she's obsessed with fashion magazines. He treats a man named Henry Follett, who has an active sexual fantasy life, based on old-fashioned pulp novels. But Doc is concerned that Henry is portrayed in his own fantasies by some younger, better-looking imaginary guy. There's also a guy named Lionel Dillard (Martin Short), who Doc refuses to treat, basically because he doesn't like the guy. And then there's Skip Skipperton (Jason Lee), a young billionaire who made his fortune inventing "panda modems," and the company he started is now of vital importance to the entire town economy. Skip wants therapy, but he thinks it would be bad for business (and therefore for the town) if people knew he was seeing a shrink. So, he hires Doc under the guise of starting a friendship with him, so they can just hang out. Skip is basically pretty lonely, being unable to make friends, and certainly unable to find a woman who likes him for anything other than his money, even though he's clearly a nice guy. Also, Doc is friends with his neighbor, Lily (Alfre Woodard), who runs the local diner.
Anyway... so, the big spoiler is coming up in a moment. First I should say, as scandalous as it seems, it's not exactly surprising. There were things Doc said throughout the early part of the film that, once you learn his secret, take on new meaning, as obvious foreshadowing. Also, there's the fact that he seems to have no concern about sharing information about his patients, clearly violating doctor-patient confidentiality. Anyway, one day, Skip tells Doc his deepest, darkest secret, thinking it's pretty terrible. (I won't say what it is, but I'll say that Doc didn't think it was bad at all. Personally, I think it was worse than Doc thought it was, but probably not quite as bad as Skip thought. And it's something that... at the time might not have been done yet, but by now I think it's been done in real life.) Anyway, Skip sharing his secret prompts Doc to share his: he's not really a psychologist, nor does he have any training in the field. He tells Skip his whole backstory, and man... it's pretty frakkin' redonkulous. I'm not going to tell you any of that story, but... wow. Just, wow.
Meanwhile, Lionel talks to the town's other two shrinks, a psychiatrist named Dr. Ernest Delbanco and a psychologist named Dr. Phyllis Sheeler, trying to get them to look into Dr. Mumford, who he thinks there must be something fishy about. And while Delbanco and Sheeler think Lionel is as annoying as Doc thinks he is, they do agree he might have a point about Dr. Mumford. Or at least Sheeler does. So... that will lead to some trouble. Meanwhile, Doc's patients do seem to get better, and there are several romantic pairings that emerge. Which were all rather sweet. But I've said too much. I'll leave out some more specific plot details, including how it ends.
But anyway, I liked the whole cast quite a bit. And the movie really was quite amusing, I thought. I could understand if anyone in the actual field of psychiatry or psychology could find it a bit offensive, perhaps, but basically, I just found the movie pleasant, and one of the more truly "quirky" of the movies I put in the quirky category. Anyway, it's the kind of plot that if it happened in real life, I'd be totally against it, but in a movie, I totally like it. And I guess that's all I can think to say.