A man who claims to be from a remote planet named K-Pax (Kevin Spacey) winds up in a New York psychiatric hospital, where he’s treated by a dedicated if troubled shrink (Jeff Bridges), and the two do interesting things for each other. As storytelling this held me throughout, integrating elements of both SF and psychological thrillers without succumbing to the strictures of either or quelling their sometimes contradictory impulses. On the other hand, this is the kind of story that starts coming apart as soon as you think about it afterward (though it has a little more staying power as a poetic idea, even if you hate it). Both actors are so good that one might easily overlook the Pollyannaish subplot, in which the purported alien brings enlightenment to his hospital warda seductive development only if you’re willing to generalize about psychiatric patients. Director Iain Softley previously turned out a good cyberthriller (Hackers) and then translated late Henry James into soft-core porn (The Wings of the Dove); his work here is equally stylish if superficial. Screenwriter Charles Leavitt adapted a novel by Gene Brewer; with Mary McCormack and Alfre Woodard. 120 min. (JR)

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