Advanced Cinematherapy


Like their earlier book, Cinematherapy: The Girl’s Guide to Movies for Every Mood, Nancy Peske and Beverly West’s Advanced Cinematherapy: The Girl’s Guide to Finding Happiness One Movie at a Time (Dell, N.Y., 2002) has to be read with a sense of humor as it is not meant to be some profound statement about serious therapy.  However, it is a good source for helping you develop your thinking about movies and the impact that they can have on you---both positive as well as negative.


The authors contend that “women watch movies differently than guys do.  For us, movies are more than just entertainment: they’re self-medication that can help cure anything from an identity crisis to the codependent blues” (p. xi).  Some men, me included, would contend that men are capable of using movies in the same manner as women.  However, as a general rule, I think that it would be hard to disagree with Peske and West that women tend to get different reactions out of the movies.  It is an interesting theory and might very well help explain things about both movies and the people who watch them.


However, that is not what the book is all about.  The book is telling the reader that you can use films as therapy---literally.  That if you are in need of a particular type of help, then you can select a movie that will zero in on that problem area and help you pop out of the funk that you might have fallen into.  I think that if you are mired in a serious clinical depression, you are not as likely to get substantial help from watching a comedy; however, for the rest of us garden variety neurotics the point they make is a valid one.


For example, one of the movie divas that they recommend is Mae West.  Mae West, who created the mold for opinionated, self-directed, full-figured heroines who take what they want from the world and don’t make any apologies” makes a fascinating role model and watching her in action in some flick like My Little Chickadee (1940) could have a variety of  refreshing and therapeutic results (p. 9).  They also provide the reader with some of Mae’s lines from her movies such as: “It’s not the men in your life that counts, it’s the life in your men” (from I’m No Angel) and “Whenever I’m caught between two evils, I take the one I never tried.” (from Klondike Annie).


Codependency Movies


The sections in their book deal with some very important issues.  For example, they have a section on codependency where they recommend movies such as The Day of the Locust and Casino---both excellent examples of how not to develop a meaningful relationship.


Within this category they have a sub-category about codependency with bad boys.  “If you’re feeling tempted to indulge in a codependent and highly toxic love affair with a bad boy, watch one of these movies and savor the feast of dysfunction without having to pay the emotional tab” (p. 23).  They then recommend such films as Star 80 and Love Me or Leave Me (based on the life of singer Ruth Etting) and Badlands (based on the life of Charles Starkweather and Caril-Ann Fugate).


Understanding your man movies


“Where did he get the idea that intimacy is a four-letter word?  Why can’t he understand that football is not the only metaphor for life?  How can you convince him that commitment is not a skin rash, and why can’t he get it through his thick head that asking for directions is not an indication of fundamental gender confusion?...trying to puzzle out what’s going on in those thick heads of theirs can give us all an emotional migraine.  Fortunately, we have the moves to help us see the world through our guy’s eyes and understand the method behind his madness.  So if you’re having trouble getting a handle on what makes your man tick, watch one of these Understanding Your Man Movies guaranteed to cure your ‘can’t live with ‘em, can’t shoot ‘em’ blues, and give you the clues you’ll need to solve the mystery of the opposite sex” (p. 48).


One of the movies in this category is Taxi Driver.  They see this movie as “a classic example of the weird love affair that guys have with cinematic down-and-outers.  There is something about a disenfranchised and iconoclastic underdog who drops out of life, shaves his head, purchases a weapon on the black market, and starts boning up on his assassination skills that just makes a guy’s heart go pitter-pat” (p. 49).  I would contend that the “something” relates to how a lot of men are angry about having to try to be someone they don’t want to be…but that is another story and it relates to Hillman’s book The Soul’s Code.


Two recent movies they list in this category are Patriot and Gladiator.  They see them as gore fests that pissed them off and I can fully appreciate their attitude toward these films.  However, in each of the films there is a very important and critical moment in which the hero is being goaded to action by the villain and instead of giving into their emotions they each practice anger management.  Sure, later they kill the villain, but it is those key moments that you want to get your boyfriend to pay attention to how important it is to develop anger management skills.


Dysfunctional Family Movies


In this category we find What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Mosquito Coast amongst others. 


Overcoming Loss Movies


The Sweet Hereafter, The Hurricane, Tender Mercies, and Dead Calm are found in this category.





Searching for Greater Meaning Movies


Chocolat, Oh, God!, Forrest Gump, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Last Temptation of Christ The Sixth Sense, Pay it Forward, Patch Adams, Holy Smoke, The Life of Brian, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life and Brother Sun, Sister Moon are in this category.


Control Issue Movies


Cast Away and Ordinary People are in this category.


And Justice Will Prevail: Reassurance Movies


The Shawshank Redemption, Pacific Heights, and The Winslow Boy are in this category.


Role Model Movies


Remember, this is a book by women for women so the role models they are looking for are female.  The movies in this category include Fargo, Elizabeth, Erin Brockovich, The Messenger and The Miracle Worker.  That last film provides you with an absolutely fabulous role model as the story is based on the life of Annie Sullivan who, with a lot of tough determination, teaches Helen Keller, who in real life then went on to become one of the greatest role models of all time.  Patty Duke plays Helen as a child and Anne Bancroft plays Annie her teacher.  One of Bancroft’s lines in the movie is: “It’s my idea of the original sin…giving up.”