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Film / The Appointments of Dennis Jennings

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The Appointments of Dennis Jennings is a 1988 short film starring Steven Wright and Rowan Atkinson.

Dennis Jennings (Wright) is a waiter in New York City. Dennis suffers from various mental tics and obsessions and anxieties, including paranoia, which lead him to his appointments with his therapist, Dr. Schooner (Atkinson). Dr. Schooner could not be less interested in his patient, doodling grocery lists while Dennis drones on and on and on. Eventually he grows to actively dislike Dennis. Meanwhile, Dennis's girlfriend Emma (Laurie Metcalf) also seems to be utterly disinterested in him, leaving a romantic dinner early. When Dennis discovers a connection between Dr. Schooner and Emma, he snaps.

Directed by Dean Parisot, who later directed cult classic Galaxy Quest.


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  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Ends with Dennis, in prison, casting a baleful look at the viewer when the therapist who visits his cell wears a tie just like the one Emma gave him.
  • How We Got Here: Opens with Dennis in a forest, hunting Dr. Schooner with a sniper rifle. Then jumps back three months to tell the story.
  • Hypocrite: Emma tells her girlfriend how Dennis is paranoid about people talking about him behind his back. While Emma's talking about Dennis behind his back.
  • Kubrick Stare: Dr. Schooner delivers one when he asks Dennis "How are you?" and Dennis says "Do you mean me personally?"
  • Monochrome Past: Several flashbacks while Dennis recounts his past to Dr. Schooner, shown in sepia tone.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Dr. Schooner really couldn't be a worse therapist. Sure, Dennis is irritating—but doodling during a session is bad, mocking your patient while in the company of friends is really bad, and dating your patient's girlfriend is mega-super-bad.
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  • Surreal Humor: There's the Trapped in TV Land gag (see below). There's how the news camera that reveals Schooner and Emma's affair doesn't just catch them on the background leaving a restaurant, but instead lingers on the two of them making out in the doorway. Dennis is obviously in New York but the newspapers he reads outside of Schooner's office are from random cities like London and Seattle. And much of the rest of the movie is a vehicle for Wright's trademark bizarre humor.
    Dennis: I want to find out where my real stepfather is.
    Dennis: I don't know if my girlfriend is pretty, or if she just looks pretty.
  • Trapped in TV Land: Maybe. For someone. But in one scene Dennis discovers that the people on his TV can see him. And then the movie cuts to some redneck couple, the couple in Dennis's TV, who can see him on their TV.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Dennis has a dream that Dr. Schooner is beating him to death with a shovel. He wakes up, looks out his window, and sees...a man in the street beating someone to death with a shovel. The driver of a passing car says hello to "Otis", and Otis responds with a cheerful wave before continuing to beat the prone figure with a shovel.

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