on November 10, 2005
I am currently a mental health care worker that works in a facility like this. I can't believe how relistic this movie is compared to the real thing. Sure there are some moments in the movie which a professional will say that "it wouldnt work like that" or "That should have been handled differently" however, overall the movie was awesome. The main thing I liked about this movie was the therapist and his drive to help even though everything he tries usually leads to failure with the kids he works with. Working in this field, I know EXACTLY how he feels. How can you reach people who dont want to be reached? It hurts so much and is very draining to care about those that don't care about themselves. I understand all of the theories of how to help people however there are those that it doesnt matter what you try. It doesnt matter to them... they have already given up on themselves. This movie shows all of that. I highly relate to the therapist of this movie. This movie would be great to use in regards to mental health staff training and even during group therapy with trouble kids - especially teens. I think it would be helpful to let kids see other kids act the way they do at times and see what they feel about it - what comes up for discussion. See there I'm in the process of trying to figure out another way of helping. Its a constant cycle. Keep trying and trying. One sad thing about this movie is that there are some kids that are helped in real life. I dont want anyone to read this post or watch the movie and feel this type of care is worthless because it is not. I have made a difference in the lives of many kids. I wish this movie would have shown one kid having a break through that led to success. It didnt. That was the missing component of the movie. It's an amazing feeling to make a difference in someone's life - to save someone's life by showing them a better way of living. It's a great feeling to get through to them. I wish the movie would have shown that. Another thing I didnt like is that the regular mental health care worker, not the therapist, was shown more as a bouncer in the movie. If something went wrong they were there to restrain and the therapist did all of the mental health care work. In real life treatment, that is totally not true. Most of the time it is the regular mental health care worker doing the day to day routines and working with the real problems. The therapist just comes in for their weekly group and individual sessions. I wish they would have shown the value and the drive of the workers that work on the floor taking care of the kids. With that said, this is a great movie most people probably couldn't relate to. There is more to this movie than just "your typical nut job flick" as previous posts have stated.
In a day when armed guards lurk in our schools and teens get tried and sentenced as adults, the film Manic opens a portal into teen rage, pain, and the existential demands of growing up. The acting, script, and phenomenal cinematography come together to grab the viewer's guts with razor talons-this is an easy movie to avoid, to turn away from, but those who dare to watch it, and to find their own anger and rage challenged, cannot watch it unscathed.
The movie opens with Lyle (3rd Rock's Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays a phenomenal role in this movie), in his late teens, having wounds sutured and his facial bruises attended to. He's anxious to go home with his mom, but two burly psych techs grab him, pump him with a tranquilizer and cart him off to a youth psychiatric unit.
Intense as this may seem, the opening credits disturb the viewer even more intensively. Lyle is in the clinical therapist's office, being interviewed. Between each question, the screen goes black and a set of credits is posted, while the sound of a fight turning into a beating runs in the background.
This sets the stage for a movie that uses digital cinematography, fast cuts, cine verite, and unexpected color to portray the chaotic life of the disturbed. Scene color schemes were actually drawn from several key van Gogh paintings, one of which plays a key role in the movie. Story lines and subplots develop. Lyle's murderous rage surfaces over and over again, challenged, each time, by his therapist. In one particularly charged scene, the therapist smashes a chair during group and asks, "Does that feel better? NO! So now I have to smash something else!" He hurls another chair, "Feel better yet? NO! So now you have to do what we all have to do, you have to live with the feelings!"
Ironically, this movie is more about anger management than the movie, Anger Management. This has all the intensity of a gritty, no-holds-barred war movie. And that's no accident, it's about the war within, the battle between a teen and his pent up rage. Ultimately, it's an existential movie, examining the choice to live or to die, made in the solitude of one's soul. Whatever the situation, whatever our escape plans are ... "wherever we go, there we are." Manic suggests that the only place freedom can be found is locked in engagement with oneself.
Although does go a little "Hollywood" at the end, this is not one of those horrid dramas which suggest that once the hero confronts a key past trauma in a cathartic moment everything turns around. In fact, the therapist, played by Don Cheadle, explicitly denies this: "You may have some epiphanal moment about your father and escape your rage. It's more likely you're going to have it all your life, and have to learn to live your life without destroying yourself or others."
If the movie has a major shortcoming, it is that the psych staff is too helpful. My experience with locked wards finds it highly improbable that Lyle would have been allowed to continue in his room, with his group, after a violent outburst. Most psychiatrists and therapists don't have the courage of Don Cheadle's character, to allow potentially dangerous situations to continue in this litigious day and age. Lyle would have been lugged off to a higher security ward, possibly sedated, and denied the interactions he needed to begin his healing process. But I criticize the mental health system, not the movie, here.
Finally a movie that dares to tell the truth. It never falls into the cliche of trying to be a One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, and it beats Girl Interrupted and 28 Days in intensity and veracity. Carl Jung wrote "enlightenment consists not in the seeing of luminous shapes and visions, but in making the darkness visible." Manic has the courage to show us a piece of that darkness, yet in gazing at it, we find a certain luminosity. In the last analysis we're left with a movie about rage, about having the courage to feel the pain behind the rage, and daring to go on living, finding freedom not by banishing the demons within, but by learning to live with them.
on February 13, 2008
Manic follows juvenile psychiatric patient Lyle (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to Los Angeles's Northward Mental Institution, where he is admitted after beating another student with a baseball bat during a fight. In a hauntingly realistic portrayal of mental turmoil, the movie follows the painstakingly slow (or non-existent) progress for Lyle, suicidal Tracy (Zooey Deschanel), self-injuring goth rocker Sara (Sara Rivas), bipolar rich kid Chad (Michael Bacall), and sexually abused Kenny (Cody Lightning). Don Cheadle portrays staff therapist Dr. Dave, a man who struggles against his own feelings of futility and ineffectiveness. The teens have angst, their families are near the breaking point, and those charged with fixing the out-of-control teens lack all the answers.
Director Jordan Melamed shot the film on hand-held digital video in an actual mental hospital, strongly adhering to the essential intentions of the Dogme 95 movement. As such, film is not a barrier between the viewer and the action on screen.
Manic is never sensationalist; rather, it uncovers truths that lurk in the lives of nearly all families. There are no trite life lessons, no jaw-dropping "crazy person" performances in hope of an Oscar nod, and the end isn't tied up with a big pretty bow. The movie does end with a sense of hope, not for banishing all trauma and difficulty, but for the ability to control and manage it within our lives.