Thursday, August 27, 2020

Bob's Cinema Diary: 8/27/20 -- 'Unfit' and 'Robin's Wish'

The documentary Unfit makes the case that Donald Trump is a malignant narcissist and, therefore, unfit to be president of the United States. The film argues that any person with this particular mental disorder should not be making decisions that impact the entire world. At its best, the movie calls attention to the role of psychiatry in public discourse. It's generally held that psychiatrists shouldn't try to diagnose people they haven't interviewed. The idea evolved after Barry Goldwater was publicly diagnosed by a large group of psychiatrists as being unfit to be president. Goldwater sued and won. Then there's the Tarasoff Rule. It says that psychotherapists should report instances in which a patient threatens serious harm to another.  Psychologist John Gartner defends a public diagnosis of trump, who hasn't been shy about putting his psyche on display. More significantly, according to some, Trump's observable behavior makes for a more reliable diagnostic gauge than an interview. Director Dan Partland branches out to include interviews with George Conway and Anthony Scaramucci and more. Their contributions will be music to anti-Trump ears, but a bit off the subject of whether Trump suffers from a mental illness that makes him unable to perform his required duties. The film makes no attempt to hide its position. Trump should be sent packing. What? You expected a movie called Unfit to reach a different conclusion or to change the minds of Trump loyalists? 

Robin's Wish
It's difficult to believe that Robin Williams has been dead for six years. But it's easy to remember the shock one felt upon hearing that Williams had committed suicide. Robin's Wish relies on Williams' widow, Susan Schneider, to set the record straight about what happened to Williams, whose death was greeted with speculation about depression, Parkinson's, and who knows what. As it turns out, an autopsy revealed that Williams suffered from Diffuse Lewy Body Dementia, a disease that was robbing him of his sense of self. Interviews with friends and with physicians make it clear that no one -- including many experts -- correctly diagnosed Williams' condition. Director Taylor Norwood mixes medical information with a tribute to Williams' talent, which nearly everyone recognized as a form of genius. Robin's Wish isn't easy to watch because we learn that the disease is degenerative, incurable, and often ends in suicide. Norwood's documentary presents a sad portrait of what happens when someone lands in a state where they feel as if they're vanishing. It wasn't pretty for Williams or for anyone else. Beyond that, Robin's Wish leaves us with a wish of our own: If only Williams were still around.

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