Making the Grades
SHORTLY AFTER HIS "ARRIVAL" in New York's Grand Central Station, Prot (Kevin Spacey) is detained by the local police. When he claims to be a visitor from the planet K-PAX, he's shuffled off to the Psychiatric Institute in Manhattan. There he's handed over to psychiatrist Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges) after failing to respond to the usual drug therapy.
Unsure of what to expect from the character behind the dark sunglasses, the work-driven Powell is intrigued by the detailed and intelligent responses Prot offers about life on his far-flung planet. Even more baffling are the lab's test results that outline his patient's highly unusual abilities. But when his interactions with the personable vagrant begin to make the doctor distrust his own methods of cross-examination, Powell finds himself undertaking drastic measures to discover his case's identity and past.
Meanwhile, this self-acclaimed alien 's harmless and courteous presence in the psych ward has an unusual effect on his fellow patients. As well as offering his own curative methods for their mental ills, Prot announces that one of them will accompany him home to the idyllic K-PAX. Eager to leave their sterile hospital environment, the patients jockey for the honor of being chosen and count down the days until departure.
While K-PAX attempts to explore the diverse and complicated world of a hospital psychiatric floor, some may find the portrayals of mental health patients a bit too glossy for reality. Parents should also be aware of the language in this film, which includes the use of an extreme sexual expletive. Teens and children may also be disturbed by a sequence of shots showing the bloody bodies of murder and rape victims, and the killing of another character.
On the other hand, K-PAX offers a (usually) gentle outsider's view on our human interactions, sprinkled with occasional humor. For families with older teens, the movie may spark discussions about the people trapped behind the mask of mental illness and offer an opportunity for greater understanding. It also reminds us of the need to foster family relationships while we inhabit our own little globe in the universe.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about K-PAX.
Why does Mrs. Powell find it easier to talk about her marriage to Prot than her husband? Is it because he is “a locked-up lunatic” or because he appears to be a compassionate listener? What qualities does Prot have that make him so approachable?
Would our society be different if people chose to do what was right like they do on the planet K-PAX?
Harvey presents another tale of a person with a possible deluded version of reality.
For another sci-fi that claims/suggests we may not be the most intelligent things in the cosmos, check out Contact.