Must Watch: Stutz
Having undergone many therapy sessions myself, the arrival of ‘therapy as entertainment’ has never sat well with me, however new Netflix release, Stutz, turns it into an art form.
Based on the therapy sessions between Hollywood actor, comedian Jonah Hill and his counsellor, the revered psychiatrist, Phil Stutz, the documentary film manages to exist on many levels: as character study of Stutz as a therapist, his relationship with Hill as client to therapist, and a study of therapy itself interspersed with Stutz’s notes, drawings and philosophies.
Whilst the concept of therapy-based drama can often descend into sanctimonious driven victimhood, Stutz is a self-questioning piece of filmmaking that balances vulnerability with solution-based ideas to move the client (Jonah Hill) forward from ‘the maze’ of his past life, trauma and entangled beliefs about himself.
Hill cleverly allows the audience in on his filmmaking process: the early part of the documentary is stuffier and detached in approach, filmed in black and white as if the viewer is part of one therapy session with Stutz in his office. The documentary then cuts to a green screen with Hill revealing that actually the filmmaking has occurred over a two year period, on a set made up to look like a therapy room, and the struggles and self-doubt, Hill has gone through in finding the vulnerability to piece together a just worthy portrayal of Phil Stutz.
Stutz introduces us to his techniques or what he has devised called ‘The Tools,’ he writes on notecards about ‘The Shadow’, ‘Part X,’ ‘Life Force,’, ‘The Maze,’ ‘The Snapshot,’ ‘The Grateful Flow,’ guiding the viewer through these techniques by line diagrams, which are helpful on just one viewing of the film, to anyone who might be suffering from difficult childhood’s, past experiences and stuck in a spiral of conditioned beliefs to see a clearer, happier future.
Broken down into sections based on these tools, Stutz simplifies and makes relatable how we can use these simple mechanisms in moments to deal with common problems we all encounter – anxiety, self-sabotage, over thinking – and to move out of ‘The Maze’ into ‘flow.’
Accompanied with beautiful black and white cinematography, a vibrant score, the film is a gentle yet powerful ode to Stutz who ‘turns problems into possibilities,’ and as Hill explains ‘saves lives.’
A must watch.