A very unique documentary titled “Stutz” premiered on Netflix on Monday, Nov. 14. Produced and directed by Jonah Hill, it follows an open and educational session between him and his therapist, Phil Stutz. It’s a very different kind of documentary, the likes of which I’ve never seen before. “Stutz” takes a slight risk in the way Hill conveys his message, but its eloquent execution pays off in the long run.
As the two focal points of the documentary, Hill and Stutz are open about the purpose of the film from the very first few minutes; Hill blatantly states why he is making this film and what he hopes to accomplish with its release. By presenting some of Stutz’s teachings that have helped his mental health, Hill aims to make them more widespread for others who may be dealing with anxiety or grief.
A majority of the film is shot in black and white, which felt appropriate and complimentary to the emotional subjects Hill and Stutz were discussing. There are also some quick cuts between the two to keep the audience engaged throughout the dialogue-heavy film.
Stutz has a very unorthodox way of treating his patients. Based on his display with Hill, Stutz is very personable but isn’t a fan of verbal fluff; he’s a straight shooter who asks forward, concise questions and gives very action-based advice. He also illustrates his therapy sessions, which I’ve never heard of being done in professional counseling. He draws basic, particular diagrams of tools and strategies he discusses with his patients for them to take home and apply to their daily lives.
It’s revealed that Stutz has been dealing with Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases for a while in his life. This is shared right before the two dive into some of Stutz’s psychological philosophies. As a psychology major, I was slightly familiar with some of the principles and content the psychiatrist shared, but he has coined his own terms for many processes and feelings. Some terms he uses are “life force,” “part x” and “the shadow.”
The film also somewhat acts as a biography for Stutz and Hill. They both talk about their families, their childhood and events that took place, molding them into the people they are now. They are able to bond over the shared trauma of losing both of their brothers. Their relationship is much more casual and friendly than you’d expect between a therapist and a patient, but it seems that’s what works best for them.
After learning mostly about Stutz’s past the film takes a turn, showing things that bothered Hill during his career. They even brought in Hill’s mother to explore their relationship dynamic and how his lifestyle affected her. Hill also talks about the struggles he had making this film; he tried to be as authentic as possible and avoided cleaning it up with flashy editing — creating some type of forced product. He had to be vulnerable with himself in this therapy session, and that becomes quite difficult while the cameras are rolling.
One last thing that Stutz suggests when dealing with depression and loss is the exercise of expressing gratitude. The concept and study of gratitude’s effect on happiness and well-being was one of the first things that hooked me into studying psychology, so it was very interesting and rewarding to see it being experimented with and practiced in this professional setting.
Overall, this is an excellent film. It accomplishes everything you could ask of a documentary and exceeded all my expectations. “Stutz” charmingly puts the spotlight on internal self-development and makes the subject more comfortable with a healthy blend of humor that does not dilute the message. The film discusses some intense personal psychological issues, resulting in some awkward and strained scenes; however, it wonderfully completes the goal that Hill had set out in the beginning of the film. I would strongly recommend “Stutz” to anyone who is even remotely interested in psychology and the effects of fame.