Sex addicts just can’t get enough
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