‘Stutz’ Review: An Actor’s Tribute to a Therapist

In 1956, the poet H.D. published “Tribute to Freud,” an appreciation of her psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud. Now, the actor and director Jonah Hill celebrates his therapist in “Stutz,” his involving documentary about Phil Stutz, who co-wrote the book “The Tools” with Barry Michels.

“Stutz” takes place in the therapist’s office. (Or does it?) But here, Hill asks most of the questions, some of them — but not all — about the visual techniques that Stutz employs in his solution-based practice. Even before Stutz (who has tremors) says as much, it becomes clear that a Parkinson’s diagnosis likely informed his sense of therapeutic urgency.

Although Hill intended the documentary to mimic a session, he admits to Stutz early on that he’s run into a directorial — and therapeutic — snag. This slightly meta moment is the first of many in a film that skillfully navigates vulnerability, brainy insights and artistry.

Hill’s nods to filmmaking tricks add to the sense we’re sharing in something authentic: a portrait of affection. The cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt’s crisp, predominantly black-and-white images, and the composer Emile Mosseri’s score accentuate the director’s tender regard.

If you’re wondering if “Stutz” wrestles with the stuff of psychotherapy, fear not. Stutz shares a great deal about his parents, as well as the death of his 3-year-old brother when he was 9. And Hill relates parts of his own story — one shaped by body-image issues but also by the sudden death of his brother, Jordan Feldstein, in 2017. Hill’s mother even visits the therapist’s office-set and handles what might have been a hot-seat reckoning well.

Rated R for frank language. Running time: 1 hour 36 minutes. Watch on Netflix.

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