This is a movie that can shake at least one of your fundamental beliefs to the core. If you consider “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys a song you could never get tired of, its use over the opening credits — prefaced by that Frank Lloyd Wright quote about how if you tip the world over, everything loose would land in Los Angeles — might refute that. The song’s dulcet tones float over drone shots and other well-composed ground-level establishing views of middle-class L.A. There’s an instant “oh, this again?” feel to it.
“Bad Therapy,” directed by William Teitler from a script by Nancy Doyne, who also wrote the novel on which it’s based, then moves ahead into a tepid domestic comedy-drama and winds up as a tepid thriller.
Rob Corddry and Alicia Silverstone play Bob and Susan, a couple suffering from the anomie that afflicts adults whose income level used to afford them a lot more affluence and status. Bob, an arguably underpaid cable television executive, is first seen slouched before the dining room table possibly ogling his 12-year-old stepdaughter, while Susan, a dissatisfied real-estate agent, darts about the kitchen, stressed about her day’s appointments.
Both elated and deflated by the news that a friend’s expecting triplets, Susan initiates a marriage-counseling session with a therapist, Judy Small (Michaela Watkins). Couples therapy becomes family therapy, then Judy starts seeing Bob and Susan separately — and giving them dangerously contradictory advice.
Judy, as it happens, is a rogue doctor. A former colleague (David Paymer) seeks her out to try to stop her narcissism-fueled manipulations, but Judy’s got her hooks in. Judy baits Susan with questions like, “Are you not aware that your husband is an exceedingly attractive man?” Bob, emboldened by Judy, engages in productive flirtation with a very game colleague, played by the former Dallas Cowboy cheerleader Sarah Shahi. Corddry has never had it so good in a movie as he does here.
As the picture winds down into an extremely (not to put too fine a point on it) plain variation on “Fatal Attraction,” one’s inclination to question its implausibility diminishes as well. The movie’s technical competence — very few low-to-mid-budget indie productions boast so many immaculately lit shots — is commendable. But it also has the probably unwanted effect of preparing the viewer for the inevitable tidiness of the narrative’s conclusion. “Bad Therapy” is the cinematic equivalent of lukewarm water.