Stutz (2022) ☆☆☆(3/4): Meet his therapist

Jonah Hill’s Netflix documentary film “Stutz”, which was released a few days ago, is a modest but interesting work to admire. As Hill and his therapist Dr. Phil Stutz are talking and discussing about many personal things besides Dr. Stutz’s unconventional therapy philosophy, we come to discern more of their respective human aspects, and we also come to appreciate how Hill sincerely and thoughtfully presents himself and his therapist without any vanity or pretension.

The early part of the documentary shows Hill and Dr. Stutz in one cozy space, and we see them going through an interview/therapy session between them. As Hill expresses his eagerness for introducing Dr. Stutz and his therapy philosophy, Dr. Stutz willingly explains a bit about that as occasionally talking about his life. While his early life was not that happy due to many things including his parents’ considerable personality difference, he was a natural listener with considerable empathy, and that was probably one of the reasons why he became a therapist.

Dr. Stutz’s therapy philosophy is pretty simple, but it is still interesting besides being quite helpful according to Hill himself, who frankly tells Dr. Stutz (and us) about his serious personal problems. Even after he became a major Hollywood actor with considerable professional success, Hill often felt lots of insecurity and anxiety in fact, and it seems that his sessions with Dr. Stutz really helped him cope with these mental problems during last several years.

According to Dr. Stutz, we all have each own personal demon to deal with, which he calls “Factor X”. In his viewpoint, we should deal with Factor X in one way or another while also accepting that life is never free from pain, uncertainty, and constant work, and he emphasizes a lot on how we should pay more attention to a number of important things one by one as trying to deal with Factor X instead of ignoring it.

Now this sounds like your average self-help book humbug, but Dr. Stutz comes to us a decent man really serious and passionate about his therapy philosophy. First of all, he does not intend to give us the solution for everything in our life, and, as far as I can see from the documentary, he really understands how messy life and people usually are. Nobody is perfect, and life will continue to be messy as usual, but, in his opinion, we keep trying to live another day nonetheless. Yes, this surely sounds clichéd, but, as a man who has had his own depression and anxiety problem for many years, I know too well that it is indeed one undeniable fact of life.

As requested by Hill, Dr. Stutz is candid as much as possible, and he does not hesitate to talk about a number of personal problems in his life. He is still haunted by the early death of his younger brother who was very ill at that time, and he has also been coping with his incurable illness which may terminate his professional career someday. He is mostly casual about that in front of the camera, but he looks regrettable when he subsequently talks a bit about how his illness affected a certain personal relationship of his.

On the opposite, Hill responds to his therapist with much more candidness than expected. In addition to revealing more of his personal vulnerability in front of the camera, he also shows a lot of his production process behind the camera, and that is where the documentary becomes more interesting than before. Without resorting to any kind of narcissism, Hill seriously discusses with Dr. Stutz on how he should shape his ongoing personal project, and the mood becomes a bit more amusing when Hill’s mother joins them at one point. Like her son, Hill’s mother is pretty candid and forthright as talking with her son on their personal issues, and Dr. Stutz is effortless while smoothly functioning as an unobtrusive mediator between them.

This moment later resonates with when Dr. Stutz reminisces about his mother, who also had her own personal issues just like her son. Besides being often unhappy with her life, she was not exactly a good mother to her son, but she eventually came to live her life more fully than before as overcoming her personal demons during her later years, and Dr. Stutz certainly admires her a lot for that, though he also recognizes that her mother’s personality problem was probably the main reason why he did not get along that well with women.

As he and Hill talk more and more with each other, we come to feel more of the deep friendship between them, and we also sense some bittersweet feeling as they talk more about the approaching end of Dr. Stutz’s life. At least, he has peacefully accepted that for years, and Hill provides a little poignant moment as he has his therapist have some little therapeutic comfort around the end of the documentary.

In conclusion, “Stutz” works as a respectful personal tribute to its interesting human subject, and Hill impresses us again as showing another side of his multifaceted talent. Besides being capable of going back and forth between comedy and drama as shown from his Oscar-nominated turns in “Moneyball” (2011) and “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013), he also made a solid directorial debut via “Mid90s” (2018), and “Stutz” shows that he is indeed a good filmmaker to watch besides being one of more interesting performers working in Hollywood. I do not know what he will do next, but, considering what I saw from “Mid90s” and “Stutz”, I guess I can have some expectation.

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