📷 : Used with permission, Netflix
Movies and TV shows with heavy subjects
Thought-provoking movies and TV shows
Documentaries can be groundbreaking, informative, and impactful. They sometimes even serve as the catalyst for change or long overdue accountability. Still, for all the wisdom documentaries impart, they often leave the audience feeling depressed and even a little hopeless. As they frequently revolve around sociopolitical issues, there rarely seems to be a happy ending or, frankly, any ending to the problem. Jonah Hill’s new project, Stutz, bucks this trend in a way. Sitting down with his long-time therapist, Phil Stutz, MD, Hill discusses the mental health techniques that Stutz has taught him over the years for managing grief and confronting his biggest mental hurdles. Hill’s goal in broadcasting these therapy sessions is to help those who may not have the same access to mental health resources that he does. While the subject is equally heavy to many other documentaries, its introspective nature and the coping mechanisms shared leave the audience feeling more optimistic.
Similar to the way cinephiles look at a cast to decide whether or not to see a movie, Stutz, as an experimental project, undoubtedly benefits from having Hill at the helm. As a reputable actor appearing in his fair share of blockbusters and cult classics, Hill’s name recognition aids in the film’s mission of reaching as many people as possible. Those who have followed Hill’s career have seen him play both the supporting actor and the front-and-center roles, evolving from mostly comedic relief to a jack of all trades. Nonetheless, Hill lacks the All-American, magazine cover page look that many view as the “ideal” body image. While anyone can suffer from body dysmorphia, Jonah Hill may elicit more sympathy from an audience than say, Jason Momoa.
On the other side of the room is Stutz, a 74-year-old native New Yorker with Parkinson’s disease. Despite Jonah Hill’s reputation as a comedic personality, Stutz cracks many of the jokes. His sense of humor and obvious rapport with Hill provides an immediate hook for the audience. Rather than sitting in reserved silence to listen to Hill’s problems, Stutz shares many of his own. Among them are dealing with the unexpected death of a loved one early in his adolescence, the discovery and diagnosis of his Parkinson’s disease, and his mother’s pessimism surrounding men based on her own life experience. Stutz’s contributions add balance, as most people’s perception of therapy is the patient doing all the sharing and the doctor merely being a soundboard.
The real draw of Stutz is his ability to provide advice and exercises rather than follow-up questions and theories. As Jonah Hill points out early on, patients find themselves getting more advice from their naïve friends who just want to lend an ear, than their knowledgeable therapists. The methodology behind therapy is listening and not imposing ideas or assuming anything, which helps the patient open up. Stutz admits from the jump that he does not agree with the philosophy: “Do what the [heck] I tell you; do exactly what I tell you and I guarantee you will feel better.” Over the next hour and a half, Stutz runs through his terminology, (i.e. Loss Processing, Radical Acceptance, Graceful Flow) accompanied by drawings to visualize the concepts. Hill then shares his own experiences trying to implement said language and exercises into his own routine. His honesty allows the audience to realize that these exercises show incremental progress rather than immediate cures, an important lesson for those who view the effectiveness of therapy in absolutes.
Admitting your fears, flaws and hang-ups from adolescence does not come easy to most people, which is often the biggest hurdle to even seeking help in the first place. Stutz just may provide a nudge to thousands if not millions of people who need it. Seeing a successful celebrity, alongside his anonymous mentor, show a willingness to open up and share helpful tips may spur on others to do the same.