'Call Me Crazy' spotlights mental illness

10:37 AM, Apr 17, 2013   |    comments
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USA TODAY - For Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer and Golden Globe nominee Bryce Dallas Howard, who worked together on the hit 2011 film The Help, Lifetime's Call Me Crazy: A Five Film was a chance to collaborate again.

For Brittany Snow, Call Me Crazy was an opportunity to work with Spencer, Howard and other accomplished women including Jennifer Aniston - one of the project's executive producers - and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson.

Still, the all-star ensemble cast isn't the only reason these actors have come together in Call Me Crazy, five interwoven stories that focus on mental illness and its impact on those it affects, their friends and families (Saturday, 8 ET/PT).

"Aside from the fact that I loved all the people involved as well as the message behind the film, this is very close to me, because it's about something that I felt I had some understanding of," says Howard. She went through what she calls "extreme clinical depression" after the birth of her first child.

"Being part of something that will help to shed light on the nature of depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or post-traumatic stress disorder," says Howard, is "very moving to me."

The film's message, in part, says Spencer, is that "mental illness is non-discriminant. It crosses all racial categories, all socioeconomic levels, all educational levels, all genders.

"I just thought it would be best to be part of something that would enlighten people," Spencer says, "and show that people can live productive lives with the right medication and therapy."

Call Me Crazy is a follow-up to the Lifetime's 2011 original movie Five, whose cast included Patricia Clarkson, Rosario Dawson and Bob Newhart. With the focus on breast cancer, Five, like Crazy, told interconnected stories on a single subject. Directors of those five shorts included Aniston, Demi Moore and Alicia Keys.

Each of the Call Me Crazy stories is named for its title character, and the directors, like the actors, are stars in their own right.

• Lucy, directed by Howard, stars Snow as a law-school student struggling with schizophrenia. Spencer is her psychotherapist, and Jason Ritter is a friend she meets after being institutionalized.

• Grace, directed by Laura Dern, stars Sarah Hyland (Modern Family) as a teenager whose mother (Melissa Leo) is struggling with bipolar disorder.

• Allison, directed by Sharon Maguire (who directed Bridget Jones's Diary) continues Lucy's story as her younger sister Allison (Medium's Sofia Vassilieva) resents the attention Lucy receives from their parents (Jean Smart and Richard Gilliland).

• Eddie, directed by Helen Hunt, stars Lea Thompson as Julia, whose husband Eddie (Mitch Rouse) struggles with depression.

• And Maggie, directed by Ashley Judd, stars Jennifer Hudson as a war veteran struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder; Snow's Lucy also plays a key role in Crazy's final short.

"This film is so great because its not a PSA telling you about what to do and what the signs are," says Snow. "This is a film about people who are family and friends of ours, maybe even ourselves. It sheds some hope on a subject that isn't talked about that much."

The pieces show "what these people are going through and the strength that they have," says Snow, "but I also think people who have mental illness can watch and hopefully connect with these characters,"

The film's primary message, says Spencer, is enlightenment.

"If we get one person to seek help. If we get one family to open their doors to a person who's afflicted and offer them solace and help, then we've done our job," says Spencer. "I hope that we somehow strike a chord and that people learn as much as they can about these illnesses."

(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)

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