Sex ad­dicts just can’t get enough

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

WITH a sub­ject as spe­cific as sex ad­dic­tion, Thanks for Shar­ing will draw com­par­isons to 2011’s Shame.

Shame was a deep-probe char­ac­ter study fo­cused on a man con­sumed by his crav­ings. By con­trast, Thanks for Shar­ing is an en­sem­ble piece that jug­gles hu­mour with sober ob­ser­va­tion of three men in­tent on over­com­ing their ad­dic­tion.

Mak­ing a tech­ni­cally pol­ished di­rect­ing de­but, screen­writer Stuart Blum­berg ( The Kids Are All Right) has crafted the datenight ver­sion of the sex­a­holic’s con­fes­sional. While it doesn’t crawl un­der the skin the way Shame did, this se­rio-com­edy of­fers a glossy por­trait of New York as a play­ground of vis­ual stim­uli. Cap­tured in crisp ad­ver­tis­ing im­agery and singing colours by cin­e­matog­ra­pher Yaron Or­bach, it’s a promo-reel for ro­mance and de­sire.

All of that keeps Thanks for Shar­ing watch­able and mildly en­ter­tain­ing, even if it’s 15-20 min­utes too long.

What stops the film from be­ing more sat­is­fy­ing, how­ever, is a prob­lem with the way the cen­tral char­ac­ter’s arc takes shape – and a key piece of mis­cast­ing in the form of Gwyneth Pal­trow’s preen­ing per­for­mance in an in­con­sis­tently drawn role.

A smart, soul­ful en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sul­tant cel­e­brat­ing five years in re­cov­ery, Marc Ruf­falo’s Adam is set up to give the film a core of emo­tional in­tegrity. When his spon­sor, Mike (Tim Robbins), in­sists it’s time for him to bite the bul­let and start dat­ing again, he con­ve­niently meets Pal­trow’s Phoebe at a foodie bug-tast­ing evening. She’s a can­cer sur­vivor and fit­ness fa­natic whose pre­vi­ous boyfriend’s al­co­holism gave her an aver­sion to ad­dicts.

In a stag­ger­ingly mis­cal­cu­lated scene, Phoebe pro­cesses the news and gives the re­la­tion­ship another shot by strip­ping down to fetish lin­gerie and demon­strat­ing her lap-danc­ing skills. Blum­berg and co-scripter Matt Win­ston jus­tify the be­hav­iour by hav­ing Phoebe say: ‘‘I’m a very sex­ual per­son. I need to ex­press that side of me.’’

The queen of mixed sig­nals, she’s a phony char­ac­ter and a too-trans­par­ent cat­a­lyst for Adam’s in­evitable fall from the wagon. This short­changes Ruf­falo, who

Thanks for Shar­ing. gives a typ­i­cally sen­si­tive per­for­mance, both in his monas­tic ad­her­ence to the vig­i­lant rules of so­bri­ety and his wounded ad­mis­sion of de­feat.

The film has more nu­ance and cred­i­bil­ity in its sec­ondary strands. One con­cerns the stub­born­ness of Mike, an apho­rism-spout­ing ad­dic­tion group elder states­man, who has lit­tle faith in the claim that his exjunkie son Danny (Pa­trick Fugit) is now clean and ea­ger to atone for his mis­steps.

And Danny is still wait­ing for Mike’s con­tri­tion for his drunken tox­i­c­ity dur­ing the boy’s childhood.

Also get­ting con­sid­er­able at­ten­tion is the progress of Neil (Josh Gad), a medic do­ing court-or­dered SAA (Sex Ad­dicts Anony­mous) time for non-con­sen­sual frot­tage.

Help comes, para­dox­i­cally, from the lone fe­male in the group, Dede (Ale­cia ‘Pink’ Moore), a tat­tooed tough girl. A break­out star of The Book of Mor­mon on Broad­way, Gad does the film’s comedic heavy lift­ing, much of it de­mean­ing phys­i­cal gags and scenes with his suf­fo­cat­ing Jewish mother (Carol Kane). But it’s in the sweet blos­som­ing of Neil’s lov­ing yet pla­tonic friend­ship with Dede, and their mu­tual sup­port, that Gad’s work res­onates most.

Moore proves a ca­pa­ble ac­tor and a re­laxed, enor­mously lik­able screen pres­ence.

Thanks for Shar­ing opens to­day.

– DAVID ROONEY

Josh Gad and Ale­cia ‘‘Pink’’ Moore star in

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