“What About Bob?” Survey of Abnormal Psychology film analysis
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In this film Dr Leo Marvin is a successful psychiatrist who has just had his first book published. Good Morning America decides to film a live interview of Dr. Marvin. They choose the setting of his vacation home in New Hampshire during his Labor Day retreat with his family. Shortly before Dr. Marvin heads off for the holiday he receives a phone call from another Doctor, who is visibly rustled, that requests that he takes on one of his patients. Leo agrees to take on a patient from this other doctor. Meeting with the patient , Bob Wiley, begins an odd relationship. When we are introduced to Bob we instantly see him take imposing control of the interview and when he speaks we hear how well rehearsed he is as a patient.
Leo quickly evaluates him as being multi-phobic with separation anxiety and family dependence issues. He hands Bob a copy of his book, Baby Steps and ushers him out. However he has no idea how needy Bob is and it isn’t long before Bob is calling Dr Marvin’s phone service trying, by any means necessary, to get in touch with him. When this fails Bob pretends to be a detective investigating his own suicide to obtain the Marvin’s’ address. Bob shows up in New Hampshire unannounced and quickly finds his Doctor. When the rest of his family take to Bob, Leo uncomfortably finds he is stuck with Bob, while the TV interview gets closer by the day.
“The simplest way to put it; I have problems.” This is Bob’s straight forward explanation his problems. This film focuses on how Bob’s life is a complete wreck and how he disrupts the life of his new psychiatrist and his family. Leo begins the interview with a greeting followed by a silent inquisitive glare. Bob immediately begins asking himself the questions that we would expect Leo to. Right away Bob answers himself almost instantly in a rehearsed fashion. During this display Bob display actions that contradict his diagnoses. One example of this happens during his rundown of phobias; Bob deliberately falls from his chair and grabs the desk without using his protective handkerchief. He is described in the film as being a multi-phobic individual with separation anxiety, and a fixation with the concept of family. This interview scene between Bob and Leo introduces us to their characters and establishes the strain Bob places on Leo. This strain, inevitably, reveals traits that Leo’s character exhibits are the real cause for concern.
Leo’s character, at first sight seems perfectly normal; He is a well composed, articulate, and always seems in control. The unannounced arrival of Bob put Leo in an incredibly bad position for many reasons. Social interaction with a patient outside appointments raises many ethical questions about the treatment and its effectiveness. Also Bob’s arrival shows an overwhelming concern about the stability of his mental state. At this point in the film is where Leo begins to loose control and struggle with his anger. When he first encounters Bob he makes a failed attempt to exit without being noticed and is forced to deal with this situation. Leo becomes noticeably nervous, but stays cool to handle the crisis. Throughout this film Leo is continually dealing with this dilemma incorrectly; causing him to a display of abnormal behavior that puts everyone in danger.
Leo Marvin’s character is under a considerable amount of stress that impairs his judgment and integrity. He first becomes distressed with Bobs reluctant nature and his family’s acceptance of the situation. Leo’s failure to make a stand at his point directly causes his breakdown. He becomes dysfunctional by repressing his anger and he develops facial ticks and display odd behaviors. Leo then becomes deviant, sneaking out of his house to break in the local general store to steal supplies to kill Bob. Danger is now apparent. Leo takes Bob into the woods; restraining him to a tree and places dynamite around his neck.
Bob escapes and goes right back to Leo’s home with the dynamite only to leave it in the house. Bob finds Leo on the dock when the family returns from looking for Leo and they all watch as the house explodes sending Leo into a catatonic state instantly. Leo put them all in extreme danger because his mental state was severely impaired and meets all the criteria for the 4 D’s of abnormality. The film focused mainly on Bob’s disorders and only touched lightly on Leo’s in the dialogue, but visually, it clearly depicts Leo’s problem accurately.
So what about Bob? A quote from Bob earlier in the film that explains it all was, “If you fake it you don’t have it.” in the context of the film it can be easily ignored as insight into himself, but it is apparent from his actions he was faking most of his mental disorders. While still acting in a severely dysfunctional manner, Bob knew exactly what he was doing the entire time. He was looking to be accepted as part of a family.
Comer, Ronald J. Fundamentals of Abnormal Psychology 4th edition. Worth Publishing