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Shari Allen, PharmD, BCPP

Emily Harper, PharmD Candidate 2014

Faculty Perspective

What About Bob is a great, and comedic, example of a dysfunctional and inappropriate patient-psychiatrist relationship. Bob Wiley (Bill Murray) has “problems” and Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) did not know what we he was getting into when his colleague asked him to take Bob on as a patient. As Bob describes it, he has obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder with agoraphobia, hypochondria, multiple phobias, as well as a very dependent personality. This dependent personality, anxiety, and multiple fears cause Bob to go above and beyond (i.e. faking emergencies, lying about his suicide) to seek help from his psychiatrist, Dr. Marvin, who is away on vacation with his family.

Bob finds out where the Marvin’s are vacationing and with the obvious disapproval of Dr. Marvin, Bob decides to vacation there too. Bob is a hit, with the Marvin’s! All accept Dr. Marvin. Anna (Dr. Marvin’s daughter) opens up to Bob like she can’t with her father. He helps Sigmund (Dr. Marvin’s son) overcome his fear of diving and he flatters Fay (Dr. Marvin’s wife) increasing her self-esteem.

As the movie progresses Bob continues to severely annoy and aggravate Dr. Marvin. Bob has a lack of boundaries and that seems to be okay with everyone except Dr. Marvin. So much so that Dr. Marvin plots to kill Bob. Which of course does not work but instead gets Dr. Marvin admitted to a psychiatric hospital. To make matters worse for Dr. Marvin, Bob is now Dr. Marvin’s brother in law. Bob marries Lily, Dr. Marvin’s sister, and goes on to become a psychologist.

Who About Bob reminds me of a patient who once asked me “What if you’re all crazy and I’m the one that’s normal?” The relationship between Bob, Dr. Marvin and his family and friends make me realize, there may be some truth to that statement.

Student Perspective

“What About Bob?” is a comedy starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss. Murray’s character, Bob Wiley, is a “multiphobic personality in a constant state of panic.” We see this from the beginning of the movie when Bob has to go outside of his apartment. Most presentable is germaphobia, but he really fears just about anything. He is very neurotic and easily forms extreme attachments to people and things he gets comfortable with.

Dreyfuss plays Dr. Leo Marvin a successful psychiatrist with a huge ego, who thinks he has a grip on everything. He never gets angry or upset. He thinks he knows how to handle anyone or any situation with ease and clarity. The movie revolves around Leo’s new book “Baby Steps”, a novel psychiatric therapy, and his soon to be appearance on Good Morning America (GMA) for the best-selling book. The interview is to take place during his family vacation at Lake Winnipesaukee. His relationship with his family is somewhat strained, which we see while he is on vacation with his family.

Another psychologist who is leaving his practice and getting out of town, most presumably because of Bob and his neurotic nature, pawns off Bob to Dr. Leo Marvin. When Leo meets Bob he gives him his book “Baby Steps”, and then sends him on his way. Bob feels great about his initial session, he has hope and for the first time in his life he has found someone that can truly help him. This initiates Bob’s attachment to Leo. Leo informs Bob that their next meeting will be after his month-long vacation.

Bob has no intention of leaving Leo alone and in peace on his vacation. Bob cunningly finds out exactly where Leo is vacationing and makes his way there using “baby steps” to get on a bus. Upon arriving at Lake Winnipesaukee, Bob gets off the bus and immediately starts frantically yelling for Leo. Leo’s vacation comes to a halt.

With his witty personality and humor, Bob charms everyone in Leo’s life. To Leo’s family, Bob is kind, fun, and sensitive, like a breath of fresh air. Whereas, Leo is seen as uptight and dull. Bob goes sailing with Anna, teaches Siggy how to dive, and raves about Fay’s cooking. Leo feels he is losing his family to Bob. He makes several attempts to get rid of Bob, even writing Bob a prescription for his own vacation away from his problems. This backfires as Bob decides to vacation at Lake Winnipesaukee, staying with the shop owners who coincidentally despise Leo for buying their dream home at the lake.

Leo starts slowly spinning out of control trying to get rid of Bob, especially after Bob makes his way onto the GMA interview with Leo as the successful patient using the “baby step” therapy. First, Leo tries to commit Bob to a psychiatric facility, but they do not think Bob is crazy. We actually see Bob charming the staff with psychiatric jokes. Now, Leo is not just looking like a schmuck to his family but to his colleagues. He then tries to ditch Bob in the middle of nowhere. Bob thinks this is “isolation therapy”, still oblivious that Leo just wants him gone. Leo’s true breaking point is when Bob puts his arm around Leo’s sister, Lily, who flew in from Chicago as a surprise guest for Leo’s surprise birthday party. He lunges and attacks Bob in front of his friends and family.

A doctor is called to evaluate Leo and thinks that the attack on Bob was due to all the stress with the book release and Leo’s lackluster appearance on GMA. He steps outside to speak with the family and Bob, and starts writing a prescription for Prozac. Bob chimes in to say that he didn’t think that that medication was right given the present symptoms of mania that Leo had just experienced. He recommended Librium as a better “management tool” instead. The doctor agrees and rewrites the prescription. Lily even exclaims that Leo is lucky to have a friend like him, further evidence of Bob’s apparent charm on Leo’s family. We also see a role reversal where Leo is now the crazy one.

When Leo hears everyone leave from outside his room, he sneaks out of the house and goes into town. He breaks into a general store, where he steals 20 pounds of explosives, rope, a rifle, and various other things. Leo finds Bob. While pointing the rifle at him, he leads Bob into the woods. He then ties Bob up and places the two coolers around Bob’s neck with explosives and a timer. Again, Bob thinks it is another type of therapy, “death therapy”. Leo leaves Bob there and on the way home practices his speech he is going to give to the family about Bob’s “passing”. Bob, however, is talking himself through the “therapy”. The ropes represent that he is all tied up inside with emotional knots and if he doesn’t untie those knots he will explode. The baby step is to untie the knots. He frees himself physically and emotionally from the ropes and runs back to Leo’s with the bombs still around his neck. He is now cured.

Leo thinks he is free of Bob and is now in good spirits, hugging and talking to his family. All of sudden, Bob appears coming from the house with a cake with candles. Leo, in a panic, asks where the bombs are. Bob tells him they are inside the house. The house then explodes sending Leo into a catatonic state. Leo comes out of the catatonic state at Bob and Lily’s wedding exclaiming “NO!” after Lily and Bob are pronounced husband and wife. Bob is now part of the family. Upon the screen we see these words:

“Bob went back to school to become a psychologist. Wrote a huge best seller “Death Therapy”. Leo is suing for rights.”

The movie ends on this cliffhanger as the audience is unsure as to how exactly Bob and Leo’s relationship will play out. If the past indicates anything for the present or future, we can assume the relationship will remain a chaotic one.

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