Psychological Complexes in Hollywood Movies

There are a pair of movies that spring to mind when I think of this particular subject. One was incredibly successful and the other pretty much disappeared without a trace. It hadn’t really occurred to me why one would do so much better than the other, especially since both had stellar casts, but I may now have an idea why.

The first of the two movies was released in 1991 and starred Billy Murray and Richard Dreyfuss. In “What About Bob” Murray played a multiphobic person who had difficulty leaving his house for any other reason than to visit his psychiatrist. When the doctor has to go on vacation, Bob goes into a bit of a tizzy and ends up stalking the good doctor and his family at their vacation spot. It’s there that the craziness ensues, with the family far more accepting of Bob than the doctor, which isn’t that difficult given how egotistical the Dreyfuss character is.

The biggest problem here was that the psychological issues that Bob suffered from were somewhat glossed over for the sake of the comedy. The complex issues of the main character were painted like a caricature and made so big as to be totally ridiculous. You never really felt that he was under any real personal stress, which I guess no-one wants to see in a light comedy of this sort. The movie did make money, but I believe that’s simply because of the popularity of Bill Murray at the time rather than any great love for the flick in general.

The other movie that I think of when it comes to psychological disorders is the 1998 Jack Nicholson movie “As Good As It Gets.” Ironically, the character that Nicholson plays in the movie has many of the same issues that Bob has in the aforementioned Bill Murray film. The difference here is that Nicholson’s problems are given a very “real” treatment. His character is very difficult to like from the get go, but you end up pulling for him because you can see that it’s his psychological issues that are affecting all of his relationships. So unlikeable is his character, you are surprised when a neighbor’s dog take to him so quickly. Of course, we find out later that he was stuffing bacon treats in his pocket so that the dog would come to him.

The scenes in the movie that show the problems of the character are subtle, yet it’s still very apparent how big of an impact they have on his life, as well as the lives of everyone he comes into contact with. You can see and feel that he wants to change, but that doing so isn’t going to be easy. Yes, his problems are played up for laughs, but you also get a bit of an insight into the life of a person suffering from these sorts of psychological issues. You see the pain he is creating, as well as his inability to stop it happening. Maybe I’m looking at all this a little too deeply, and it’s just as simple as people liking one movie over another, but I think the reason that “As Good As It Gets” scored big at the Academy Awards is because it was able to successfully mix the psychological madness into the comedy.