“Stutz:” A Candid Documentary by Jonah Hill

Erin Yandell

Senior Staff Writer

It’s rare to discover a documentary that exhibits such simplicity yet is still extremely powerful in its message. In today’s world, therapy and mental health are becoming more commonplace and less stigmatized than in the past. Psychiatry is constantly developing new theories and methods attempting to solve the evolving problems of humans. Most people don’t share the reality of therapy, but Jonah Hill created this movie to reach people that might find his therapist Stutz’s tools useful, explore his personal struggles, and share Stutz’s story with the world. It was released on Netflix on Nov. 4, 2022, introducing everyone to Jonah Hill’s heartfelt tribute to his therapist and close friend.

Jonah Hill is a well-known comedic actor with a wide range of both funny and serious works. Actors are real people, contrary to public belief that famous people are to be idolized, and they experience the same struggles that we do. He experienced a traumatic loss several years ago and has dealt with self-image issues, as well as other common mental health disorders like depression. This aspect made the documentary feel extremely genuine.

The documentary is a view into a therapy session with Stutz, with Jonah being his patient. The difference is Stutz is being asked the questions and Jonah tells the story through honest conversation and perceptive questions. 

One of the most endearing aspects of the film is the representation of the friendship between the two. The stereotypical idea of a therapy appointment is a cold office lacking personality with a therapist that doesn’t truly connect with their patient. This film demonstrates a friendship rather than a professional relationship between therapist and patient. They have shared deep conversations which are typical for a therapist, but the way they laugh, and crack jokes indicates a strong and personal bond. To honor this friendship, Jonah decided to create the illusion that the entire documentary was filmed in one day to maintain the authenticity of their connection. It was interesting to see an open conversation that wasn’t pandering to a certain audience or presenting an insincere message. However, the way that Jonah uncovers the true filming structure disrupted the film’s flow and seemed a little out of place.

About halfway through the movie, Jonah reveals that this documentary was filmed over several months, not in one session, as the movie implies. We learn that every time they film, they put on the same clothes and Jonah puts on a wig to maintain continuity. He explains that the entire set, which is supposed to be Stutz’s office, is a green screen. 

This documentary is intended to be candid and raw, so it’s understandable that there is an honest break in the movie to explain the structure and share intimate details about Jonah’s journey. But, through the eyes of a viewer, this can seem a little off balance and disjointed for the viewer. Despite the break in structure, it was refreshing to see a documentary with a unique premise and filming structure that doesn’t sugarcoat therapy while also presenting solid tools that are relevant and effective.

Now, it’s time to talk about Stutz, the star of the documentary. If there were two words to describe him, they would be genuine and compassionate. 

His childhood story influenced him to become a psychiatrist. His family experienced a tragic loss of his young brother, and his parents did not grieve in a way that expressed their feelings and comforted their children. Stutz was an observant child, fixating on actions and behaviors in order to understand the underlying cause. At a young age, people would often come to him and discuss their problems. He said that it seemed as if he had something about him that encouraged people to share personal stories or issues. He described this as being very difficult for him as a child, as he was hearing more adult problems, causing him to mature quickly.

However, he moved forward, eventually becoming a psychiatrist. According to one of his books, “The Tools” co-written with Barry Michels, as an inexperienced therapist during his first few years, he encountered a woman who knew exactly what her issues were, but she was desperately asking for the exact steps to solve them. He conferred with other more experienced therapists, but they had no solution other than using her direct response as part of her problem. He was dissatisfied with all the theories and approaches because they discussed the problem but would not give the patients effective methods to work on them. 

Therefore, over the years, he, along with Michels, developed “Tools.” Essentially, they created their own psychiatric approach and provided these tools to patients that actually required them to delve deeper into their self-consciousness and actively work on their mental health. There are several tools and concepts explained in the documentary, but the most important part is the use of visuals.

Throughout the documentary, as Stutz explains some of the tools, there are visual drawings that represent that tool. What’s more important is that Stutz draws them himself. This emphasizes his authenticity and gives the viewer concrete ideas about his methods. Another important fact to point out is that Stutz is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease; so many of the drawings are a little shaky as he has difficulty with hand tremors, but these imperfections present sincerity rather than an emotionless digital image.

It would be difficult to describe all of the tools in this short space, so I will briefly detail three basic concepts that introduce you to Stutz’s world: Aspects of Reality, Life Force, Part X.

Aspects of Reality

Pain, Uncertainty, Constant Work

These are innate aspects of life that are constantly present and in order to understand your mental health, you need to understand their effect on us.

Life Force

This is described as a three-level pyramid. The three levels are meant to describe various relationships that are essential to our lives. The levels in order from bottom to top are the relationships with your physical body, other people, and yourself. It’s described as a fundamental aspect of our lives that we need to analyze to understand how to improve.

Part X

This is the enemy, whatever prevents you from moving forward. Part X is a simple concept, but it is essential in almost every tool. 
This documentary is an amazing tribute to an interesting man and a possible resource for people stuck in their mental health journey. These theories and practices are definitely worth researching. There are books and a website that describe this ideology in more detail, and it’s highly recommended to spend time exploring these concepts.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, featured

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