“Change the way you look at the world.”
That’s the tagline for K-PAX, a new film starring two-time Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey and multiple Academy Award nominee Jeff Bridges.
Spacey plays Prot, a mental patient at the Manhattan Psychiatric Institute who claims to be from the planet K-PAX. At the beginning of the film, Prot falls under the care of Bridges’ character, Dr. Mark Powell, the institute’s chief clinical psychiatrist.
Powell believes Prot is delusional and needs medication and/or therapy. Prot disagrees, maintaining he’s a K-PAXIAN.
The story develops as Powell tries to cure Prot and convince him that he is in fact a man named Robert Porter. Meanwhile, Prot befriends other mental patients and tries to cure them with his own mode of therapy, much to Powell’s outrage.
“What would you say if I were to tell you I didn’t believe you were from K-PAX?” Powell asks.
Prot: “I would say you’re in need of a Thorzine drip, doctor.”
So it goes for Powell and Prot, two beings caught in a maelstrom of belief about home, family, normalcy, hope and possibilities.
No sense in spoiling the ending here. It’s sufficient to note that Prot puts the ball back in Powell’s–and the audience’s–court: “I will admit the possibility that I’m Robert Porter if you admit the possibility that I’m from K-PAX.”
The script slowed at points, and some may resent this film’s brand of resolution, but K-PAX is worth viewing.
Spacey and Bridges deliver their usual good work, and their scenes together provoke the viewer on several levels, not the least of which is philosophical.
For example, Prot makes numerous observations about Earth and humans. He classifies Earth as a “BA-III planet, early stage of evolution, future uncertain.”
Prot also comments on human behavior and theology: “You humans–most of you–subscribe to this policy of an eye for an eye, a life for a life, which is known throughout the universe for its stupidity.”
Prot further observes that the Buddha and the Christ tried to teach humanity differently, but most humans don’t follow their paths, “not even the Buddhists and the Christians.”
When Powell asks if K-PAXIANS have laws, Prot responds, “No laws. No lawyers.”
“How do you know right from wrong?”
“Every being in the universe knows right from wrong,” Prot maintains.
Exchanges like these, which reveal an alien’s take on humanity, keep the thinking viewer intrigued and interested.
Throw in the anticipation of Prot’s return to K-PAX, the quirks of the mental patients and a hypnotic celestial score, and K-PAX becomes a pleasant movie-going experience.
The movie is based on a 1995 novel of the same name by Gene Brewer. Interestingly, the paperback featured the following tagline: “He calls himself Prot. Is he a man, alien … or savior?”
K-PAX is rated PG-13 for a sequence of violent images, and brief language and sensuality.
Cliff Vaughn is BCE’s associate director.