Rendezvous with Madness 2017: Our Review of ‘Mad To Be Normal’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Movies, RWM 2017 by - November 07, 2017
Rendezvous with Madness 2017: Our Review of ‘Mad To Be Normal’

Elisabeth Moss plays Angie Wood. She’s a psychology student working on her PhD in Robert Mullan’s biopic Mad to Be Normal. Which is about Wood’s boyfriend. Said boyfriend is RD Laing (David Tennant). I’m trying to figure out what all of this means. This isn’t that simple since the anti-psychiatry movement have co-opted Laing as one of their figureheads. Although then again the movement has a lot to be mad about. Most psychiatric institutions were torture chambers where doctors treated patients with electroshock therapy. Psychiatrists then were using that therapy without knowing how it works.

The film shows flaws of conventional psychiatry while for the most part blindly praising Laing’s methods. Laing ran Kingsley Hall. It’s an institution that we get to see in the film that has an egalitarian way of running things. That’s me being polite. He would talk to his patients, a thing Jung did that doctors in the 60s apparently forgot to do. But of course, there are harmful effects with giving patients too much freedom. The film includes one the more harmful patients (David Byrne) it its story. But that character’s inclusion doesn’t underline the holes within Laing and Wood’s methods.

There’s a lot of problem pattern clothing here. That’s one of many reminders that the film takes place in the 60s. Another reminder of the period is the smoky sepia tone to its cinematography. That, I’ll admit, is a welcome change to the wet cement of today. Even Moss’ presence in the film serves the same purpose, a wink to her iconic role in Mad Men. There’s also its share of love scenes between Moss and Tennant. I’ve seen better movie couples although they’re decent. Nonetheless, it’s elements like its cinematography and its soundtrack that give the movie the same subtlety as a sledgehammer.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.