Film Review: Thanks For Sharing

TFSSDirected by Stuart Blumberg

Starring Mark Ruffalo, Tim Tobbins & Gwyneth Paltrow

Perhaps the most direct criticism of Thanks For Sharing is also the thing that I found made it an enjoyable movie. For a movie about sex addiction, it sure is peppy and upbeat. The movie I watched was a great hangout movie, with good actors getting along and almost making a sex addicts anonymous support group an appealing place to hang out. I left with a smile on my face. Should I have? For a movie about sex addiction? Perhaps not. The movie does cover everything it needs to cover, and I would defend it against the notion that it skirts passed the uglier side of addiction, but does it cover those things with gloves on? I can’t say it doesn’t, and perhaps therein lies the problem.

Thanks For Sharing is an ensemble drama-comedy – or dramedy, if you wish to burn in hell – about people at various stages of dealing with sex addiction.  The rules are simple. No masturbation or sex outside of a committed relationship. There’s Adam (Ruffalo) who’s five years abstinent and trying to edge back into the dating world whilst minding his addiction, Mike (Robbins) the group leader, 20 years sober and happily married, dealing with the return of his drug-addict son Danny (Patrick Fugit), who has forgone support groups and decided to white knuckle quit the white stuff. Neil (Josh Gad) is an obese young doctor, court ordered to attend the group after pressing up against women on subways in ways they don’t appreciate, who is only there because he has to be and doesn’t have a ton of investment in getting better. And finally Dede (Pink, yes that Pink) a newbie nymphomaniac, whose addiction to casual sex has destroyed her life top to bottom.

The most striking character is probably Gad’s Neil.  Overweight enough that sex isn’t really a regular option for him, his addiction causes him to act out in various ways, from his subway indiscretions to attempts to film unsuspecting women. Gad is one of those actors who’s clearly got a lot of talent, but is limited by the kinds of roles available to a man in his physical condition. But like in Love and Other Drugs, Gad is clearly more alive in roles that require slightly more dramatic resonance than the grotesque Jack Black-lite roles he is usually required to play by Hollywood. He’s great here. Tim Robbins is an actor that I don’t think works nearly enough for how good he is, and I got a lot out of seeing him in a more substantial role. If anything the most under-used character is the lead, Ruffalo getting a few great moments in his relationship with Phoebe (Paltrow), but we lose track of him occasionally during the film. Paltrow is good value too, and is very capable at this romantic comedy banter type stuff.

Even Pink is impressive, it could just be my default state of patronising ignorance but given the acting talent of most musicians when they enter movies, I was completely taken aback by how good Pink was, when in actual fact she was probably just solid.  The writing is good, and the dialogue is suitably snappy. But again, this is a film about sex addiction, and one without a trace of irony. Shouldn’t it be just a little bit horrifying? The darker stuff is generally more implied than seen, and the movie is perhaps a little too eager to make us like the characters instead of being interested by them. Even Gad is fundamentally a good person, and perhaps a greater variety of people along the human spectrum could have given this film more punch and bite, when at times it just feels comfortable. Addiction has an effect on your character too, not just your body.

That said, this film chose to view the human experience through positivity tinted glasses, and by and large that approach made the film entertaining and engaging. But was it affecting? Not really. I think it was well-meaning, but was also a little afraid of its subject matter, there’s little to no actual sex in this movie for example, and for a film exploring the darker side of sexuality that’s a bit of a false note. I still enjoyed myself, however, but I’m not sure that’s the take back the film-makers wanted me to have. Or maybe it was. Either way there’s too much spinelessness for this potentially great movie to be anything more than just good. But Pink is really good guys, holy shit.

3/5

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