(director/writer: Jon Avnet; screenwriters: based on the book “The Three Christs of Ypsilanti” by Milton Rokeach/Eric Nazarin; cinematographer: Denis Lenoir; editor: Patrick J. Don Vito; music: Jeff Russo; cast: Richard Gere (Dr. Alan Stone), Peter Dinklage (Joseph), Walton Groggins (Leon), BradleyWhitford (Clyde), Charlotte Hope (Becky), Kevin Pollak (Dr. Orbus), Julianna Marguilies (Ruth), James Monroe Iglehart (Benny), Stephen Root (Dr. Rogers); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Daniel Levin, Jon Avnet, Molly Hassell, Aaron Stern; IFC Films; 2017)
“The patients seem more like central casting loonies than authentic ones.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Three Christs premiered at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival and sat on the shelf for two years before its release.
A dramatically inert film by veteran writer-director Jon Avnet (“Fried Green Tomatoes”/”88 Minutes”). It’s on the revolutionary crusading psychiatrist Dr. Milton Rokeach, here called Dr. Alan Stone (Richard Gere), doing his thing to find a more human way to treat paranoid schizophrenics. It’s based on the book “The Three Christs of Ypsilanti” by Milton Rokeach and is co-written by Eric Nazarin. It uses the 1964 case study by the shrink as its clinical narrative, but despite its rich source material the writers offer no particular psychological insights that matter and the patients seem more like central casting loonies than authentic ones. Additional flaws are that the film is too silly, too tedious, it goes on for too long, it doesn’t hold the viewer’s attention, and it comes to an abrupt flat conclusion (the shrink confesses after trying LSD that even if he couldn’t cure his disturbed patients of their god-like delusions, they helped cure him of his delusion).
In 1959, psychiatrist Dr. Alan Stone (Richard Gere) arrives at a mental hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He believes schizophrenic patients should not be treated only by drugs, lobotomies, confinement and electroshock therapy but with empathy and understanding. His ideas go against the conventional practices of the time and his radical treatments will eventually get him fired.
For his first case Stone tackles the severe delusional problems of three men with Jesus Christ complexes but who have distinct personalities. They are Joseph (Peter Dinklage), Leon (Walton Goggins), and Clyde (Bradley Whitford).
Stone has all three together in group therapy sessions and has them confront each other. Joseph speaks in an eloquent Shakespearean tongue, Leon veers between showing off his superiority or becoming infantile, and Clyde is twitchy.
If all you care about is good acting, you get it from the stars. Each actor gets a chance to chew the scenery during the group sessions.
Some of the supporting cast of note are the following: Becky (Charlotte Hope) is Dr. Stone’s attractive new research assistant sits in on the sessions thereby bringing on unneeded sexual tensions; Julianna Margulies is Stone’s former research assistant and now his brainy wife who is a chemistry professor.
Kevin Pollak plays the hospital chief Dr. Orbus and is the chief skeptic of Stone’s radical treatment.
REVIEWED ON 2/1/2020 GRADE: C+