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Needs a Good Slap

by Laura Leon on September 26, 2013

Thanks for Sharing
Directed by Stuart Blumberg

 

Depending on how seriously you take the concept of sex addiction, Thanks for Sharing is either really engaging or thoroughly preposterous. In any event, it’s a movie that never quite delivers. Adam (Mark Ruffalo), an environmental consultant, has gone five years without relapsing into porn or masturbation, in large part because he micromanages his personal living space to exclude the existence of television or a laptop. He’s part of a 12-step group, sponsored by Mike (Tim Robbins), and is now in turn sponsoring reluctant addict Neil (Josh Gad). The concept of addiction and recovery permeates this light romantic comedy, with Mike a firm proponent of the need for steady programming to transcend one’s demons. (There’s an interesting subplot involving Mike’s drug-addict son Danny, played by Patrick Fugit, who chooses to forego counseling in favor of white-knuckling it.) Adam talks the talk, not just to his sponsee but presumably to himself, especially after he tentatively embarks upon a romance with Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow).

Ruffalo & Paltrow exchange fluids in Thanks for Sharing

Director Stuart Blumberg, working on a script he co-wrote with Matt Winston, demonstrates some of the keen observational skill he brought to his The Kids are Alright script, but he seems unsure just how much he wants to delve into his main characters’ situations, let alone their psyches. To be fair, he’s aided by an incredibly strong cast, especially the oddly appealing Gad—how can such a pervert engender our empathy?—and, in her strong film debut, Alecia Moore (aka Pink), as Dede, a hairdresser who has always used sex as a weapon. Ruffalo and Paltrow are extremely well-matched, each playing characters equally attractive and neurotic. And Robbins perfectly straddles that fine line between being a pompous ass, constantly spewing 12-speak jargon, and a flawed survivor, ignoring the pain his past actions have inflicted upon his son and wife (Joely Richardson).

No, the problem with Thanks for Sharing has nothing to do with is the on-screen talent. Rather, it’s that the determination to present sex addiction as a real condition (and not just an Anthony Weiner punch line) juxtaposed with its breezier boy-meets-girl romance falls flat. Too much self analysis, even by attractive performers like Ruffalo, becomes akin to wallowing in your own filth, and makes the viewer want to slap some sense into the characters, a la Cher in Moonstruck.