Adam (Mark Ruffalo) has just reached the 5-year mark in his sex addiction sobriety with help from his sponsor Mike (Tim Robbins). New-comer Neil (Josh Gad) seeks out Adam's help hoping that he'll be his mentor, but Neil doesn't have the same maturity and continues to harass women at work, on the street, and on the subway. Adam has also just met Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), who might be perfect for him, but Adam hasn't been in a relationship since he recognized his addiction to sex, and Phoebe doesn't date addicts. As Adam navigates the romantic relationship waters, Mike struggles connecting to his former drug-addicted son who has just returned home, and Neil develops a relationship with another woman in his sex addicts group, but a platonic friendship might be exactly what he needs. Written by
I could say the same to co-writer/director Stuart Blumberg
One of the most prevalent wrongdoings for marketing a film about a heavy-subject is making the film appear to be a comedy or a light-hearted drama based on the design of the film's theatrical poster. This worried me right off the bat with Stuart Blumberg's Thanks for Sharing, which is marketed with a poster that is largely white and includes three separate pictures of happy, smiley couples with the corny tagline "life is a journey you never have to take alone." Learning the film was about sex addiction from its trailer, I couldn't even begin to say how vague and general they kept this poster and feared that, since addiction of any kind is hard for American audiences to digest, this marketing campaign would effective limit or dilute the true impact writer and director Stuart Blumberg was going for.
However, Thanks for Sharing lives up to its poster, as it is a pretty straight-laced, surface-level drama about sex addiction, one that looks at the film from a slight drama angle but prefers to allow comedy to rear its head in several places. Ostensibly, the film is likely to be dismissed by real-life sex addicts, who will find the film nothing but dismissive to a serious disease, and for that, serious points need be deducted from the film's overall performance. However, examining this picture from a lens analyzing competence and strength of writing, this is a passable little dramaedy that occasionally does offer some moments of stunning purity and vulnerability amongst its subjects, regardless of how pretty they look on a poster that is eighty-percent white.
The film focuses on three different people in New York City, all of whom sex addicts with a similar severity level and all of whom are in the same sort of twelve-step program for treatment and assistance. Adam (Mark Ruffalo) is your average, attractive male, who looks as if he has nothing to hide, until he meets Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), a hilarious woman who just so happens to be very sexually promiscuous and constantly looking for new ways to spice up her sex life in her relationships. Meanwhile, Neil (Josh Gad, who was also seen as Steve Wozniak in the Jobs biopic in 2013) is a pudgy clown of a guy, who is quick with a joke, but also deeply a victim to his disease. A doctor, one day he resorts to attempting to film up one of his coworker's skirts. He states it's for a documentary he's making called "What the Ground Sees." And then there's Mike (Tim Robbins), an older soul, with a family, who is trying to cope with sex addiction. He has a wife (Joely Richardson) and an adult son (Patrick Fugit), both of whom are aware of his complications and try to be there for him, despite recognizing that he still has his own personal wrongs he has yet to right. A bold scene comes late in the film, which is a fight between Mike and his son. The unwritten book of movie conventions states that a family must fight at a certain point in the film, but thanks to the timing and the speed of both Robbins and Fugit, this instance makes for one unsettling couple minutes, as real issues are thrown out in the open, and both characters - particularly Robbins' Mike - are seen at their most vulnerable.
Then there's Dede (Alecia Moore, better known by her pop stage-name as "Pink"), a unique, free-spirited sex addict who befriends clumsy Neil, as she admires his determination to not only keep himself off the track of careless sex but her as well. Moore acts just the way you'd expect her to act - wild, a little crazy with a tell-it-like-it-is personality combined with the ability to fly by the seat of her pants. With this being her first real acting role, I'd be the first to see Moore act in another picture, where her character is given enough space to move between comedy and drama. This is a tougher role to handle for a first time acting gig and Moore shows little struggle. What attracted her to the material is beyond me, but persistency in Hollywood could lead her to receive more performances that allow for deeply-rooted humanism to take affect, even more-so than what could be found in Thanks for Sharing.
When it comes down to the film's depiction of sex addiction, let's just say, this isn't necessarily the film a twelve-step program on sex is likely going to advertise. It's way too oversimplifying, rarely diving into the horrors of such a nasty and depressing disease that many people are quick to pass judgment on. Not to mention, when the film does try to dive into the horrors and the uncontrollable urges sex addicts are likely to have, Blumberg and co-writer Matt Winston are quick to rebound to more lighthearted comedic tone so as not to offend or alienate. The film plays drastically different instruments than Steve McQueen's Shame, one of the bleakest yet most profound films I have yet to see on the topic of addiction.
But, as established, Thanks for Sharing is nine miles away from Shame in many different respects; the only logical comparison is that both deal with an addiction that has gone under the radar as drug and alcohol addiction take prominence. Blumberg does an adequate job at incorporating comedy to a story that would seemingly only work under dramatic circumstances and for that the film deserves a big plus for courage. The fact that the actors also provide a grand amount of energy (Josh Gad is a real find of an actor, who I see going on to portray roles of even higher dramatic prominence) deserves another plus. While the entire ordeal may drag a bit and the conclusion seems a bit too clean, Thanks for Sharing is not without its benefits, which involve some of the most difficult things for dramaedies to get right.
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