Craig's First Take: "Thanks for Sharing"
on 2013-09-26 10:31
There are scenes in “Thanks For Sharing” where you appreciate it for its honesty about addiction. A character like Adam (Mark Ruffalo) confessing to a five year struggle to stay sober, a character like Neil (Josh Gad) wanting to become a doctor but so out of control its difficult to think of anything else, or a character like Mike (Tim Robbins) telling us that trying to quit is like doing crack, just with the pipe attached to your body. What they all suffer through in Stuart Blumberg’s (wrote “The Kids are Alright”) directorial debut is sex addiction.
Co-written by Matt Winston, the film finds Adam trying to get back out into the dating world, meeting a breast cancer survivor and health nut named Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow). Adam’s sponsee Neil, who has a pervy history of rubbing up against women on the subway, has just lost his job and is really struggling with the 12 step program all three men are in, until he and one of the only women in the group, Dede (Pink is actually a pretty good actress), strike up a non-sexual friendship. And Mike, a guy who seems the most together of the three, is proven to be anything but when his drug addict son (Patrick Fugit) returns home, claiming to have kicked the habit on his own.
Blumberg and Winston each do a terrific job of getting into the minds of sex addicts, having them relate their issue in an identifiable, heartfelt, and funny way. But as the film rolls along, we want more from them than just confessions. These guys are like every other sympathetic addict on the planet but the film never really reveals the darker side to this addiction until the last 20 minutes, and even then if a character wants to masturbate and see a hooker after a rough time, I wonder if that is really such a bad thing? The movie certainly never shows what something like that could lead to. And speaking of, when a character says they’re five years sober, does that count masturbation too? “Sharing” never shares those sorts of details.
This is also a movie where the only real interesting thing people have to talk about is sex addiction. The Ruffalo and Paltrow relationship gets particularly grating after a while because the script makes them talk in cutesie jokes (when Paltrow admits to having fake breasts, Ruffalo chimes in with “Is that what they mean by a booby prize?”) up until the point when sex addiction is introduced, then it’s all serious worry and paranoia. Gad and Pink are less annoying but don’t really add much either. I liked the few scenes of father and son working through their issues between Robbins and Fugit though.
This is not to say the acting is bad from anyone. Ruffalo is, if nothing else, totally sincere in a role of a man struggling to stay straight, Gad gives what may be the best performance here, handling comic relief while still creating a compellingly out of control pervert, and Robbins wears a newfound acceptance of his shortcomings and his role as a guiding light for others. Just “Sharing” is sympathetic and likable when it feels like it should be dirtier and more in-depth.