THANKS FOR SHARING
Directed by: Stuart Blumberg
Written by: Stuart Blumberg and Matt Winston
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins, Patrick Fugit, Josh Gad, Alecia “P!nk” Moore, Joely Richardson, Carol Kane
Over the past few years, the stigma of “sex addiction” is finally being overcome – I suspect thanks in part to films like CHOKE and SHAME that take on the difficult subject matter. Landing somewhere in between those two is THANKS FOR SHARING. While it’s not quite as comedic as CHOKE, not as gut-wrenching as SHAME, and not nearly as “feel-good” as the ad campaign suggests, THANKS blends dark and light moments together in a work of brutal honesty. Even though it’s not a perfect cocktail, it still works.
THANKS makes for a good double feature with SHAME, as it spotlights what happens when an addict gets the help they need. The film mainly follows a quartet of sex addicts in NYC. Type-A Adam (Mark Ruffalo) is celebrating 5 years of sobriety, but finds himself in trouble when he starts dating excercise-a-holic/ breast cancer survivor Phoebe (my bestie Gwyneth Paltrow). Mike (Tim Robbins) is Adam’s mentor/ group leader who’s struggling with the double whammy of sex and alcohol addiction. Plus he’s got a wife (Joely Richardson) who’s got an STD thanks to his problem and a prodigal son (Patrick Fugit) recovering from a drug problem. Then there’s Neil (Josh Gad) – a doctor whose problem was so extreme, he was fired and given court orders to attend group therapy. While there he forms a platonic relationship with the only female sex addict, Dede (Alecia “P!nk” Moore). As we bond with this ragtag bunch, we see obstacles arise and how they are forced to handle them on a daily basis.
Most of the film’s underlying tension happens because of that ongoing quest for “normalcy.” It’s a tightrope act that’s brilliantly showcased in the most authentic of manners. In some ways this is better than SHAME – a film I loved. It’s co-writer/ director Stuart Blumberg’s real world versus Steve McQueen’s hyper-stylized one. In that regard, THANKS FOR SHARING presents a spectrum of characters’ suffering rather than seeing the affliction through one (really hot) guy’s eyes. The subject matter is much more interesting when explored by someone who looks like Gad versus hottie Michael Fassbender. Metaphors like the koi pond father Mike and son Danny are constructing (signaling the rebuilding of their relationship) are handled brilliantly, in a non-precious manner. Blumberg and Winston’s dialogue about diseases hits you square in the gut: “Cancer gets you sympathy. Mine gets you judgment.”
There’s a palpable feeling to the ensemble’s connection. The idea of broken people being broken together makes my heart swell, as I want to see them succeed on their paths. Paltrow (who continues her quest to sell millions of Tracy Anderson gym memberships) and Ruffalo’s easygoing rapport makes the words come alive. Supporting turns from Moore and Fugit also make this film a gem. And Robbins gives a complex, layered performance as the group’s default patriarch.
But sadly, just like the humanity it spotlights, this film has a few problems. Sharp tonal shifts in the script drag things down. When the film ventures into dark territory (and boy does it), viewers might get whiplash when it bounces back with a humorous scene involving Gad’s character. There’s little time to recover, even though tension-release humor is a necessity. It also gets a little hipstery (Adam and Phoebe meet cute at a party featuring bug themed cuisine – is this a thing?), which can be insufferable. And there are small details that feel a little ham handed (why didn’t Adam have his TV removed before he Skyped with Phoebe?).
Even though the film is tonally disjointed, ultimately it’s forgivable as there’s so much heart and hope bolstering the narrative. While it’s not perfect, its raw, real honesty and humor (both light and dark) should be applauded.
4 out of 5