Thanks For Sharing Reviews
Good drama/comedy film! The movie depicts a surprisingly complete spectrum of victories, failures, and facts of recovery: meetings, sponsorship, relapses into addiction, a "crash", a "crash and burn", job loses, near relapses, just-in-time phone calls, phone calls which went unanswered at critical times, suspicious girlfriends, wary wives, male addicts, female addicts, addict parents having to confront the affects of their addiction on their own children, addicts having to deal with their abusive parents, starting a healthy relationship with another addict in recovery or with a non-addict, the confusion caused by sex after long abstinence from sex, multiple addictions, and, above all, a message of hope and freedom. It's all there, and it's there in a surprisingly compact story. The main cast were great and their characters were interesting. More importantly, the film didn't suffer from the current trait of being too long for the storyline.
A romantic comedy that brings together three disparate characters who are learning to face a challenging and often confusing world as they struggle together against a common demon: sex addiction.
We follow three sex addicts in one therapy group, all at different points of recovery. Mike (Tim Robbins) is the paternal figure of the group. He's long been married to his high school sweetheart. Adam (Mark Ruffalo) is five years sober and being prodded by Mike to start seriously dating again. He meets Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), a cancer survivor, and hides his addiction from her. Worst of all is Neil (Josh Gad), a doctor who has been mandated to attend sex addict group therapy after "bumping" into people on the subway and recording an upskirt video of his boss. He doesn't believe he has a problem, but, under the guidance of Adam and Mike, comes to the conclusion that the only person who can fix his impulses is himself.
Thanks for Sharing is an admittedly entertaining movie, at turns, but it's a movie with one debilitating identity crises. What kind of movie does it want to be tonally? We get raunchy sex gags, and then the film transitions into rom-com fluff, and then the film transitions into hard-hitting addict drama, and then it's all back again. All of these elements could have been carefully threaded into one movie, but Blumberg and co-writer Matt Winston cannot nail down a consistent tone. In fact many of the changes can be quite jarring. One minute people are engaged in wacky sex hijinks, and the next they're lamenting all the horrible life choices they've made in tears. When there isn't a clear tone, or clear transitions, then the comedy undercuts the drama and vice versa. Therefore, certain elements can be appreciated or be found engaging, but the movie cannot become more than the sum of its parts. And let me get into whether sex addiction is really a topic that can work in the realm of romantic comedy. With the right finesse anything can be presented in a comedic light that still maintains the humanity and dignity of its flawed characters. However, is something as easily misunderstood as sex addiction, whose particulars can be quite appalling to many, the right fit for a genre that is predicated on whimsical coupling? I don't think so. Thanks for Sharing doesn't change my mind.
About that rom-com part, notably the relationship between Adam and Phoebe, it's easily the least interesting part of the film. Both of these characters are fairly bland. Adam's the sober guy trying to keep things going, except that we never really feel like he's challenged. We don't feel the threat that he's going to relapse. And we don't really get to know much else about the guy. He vaguely works for some sort of environmental firm. As a character, he is defined by Phoebe, herself a collection of quirks that doesn't coalesce to form a human being. The film weirdly keeps harping on the fact that Phoebe likes her food to not touch, as if this minor peculiarity is some harbinger of a greater OCD complex (she's into physical fitness!). The fact that other characters have to jump in on this makes it even more transparently reaching. Worse than all this, the couple's interactions, and much of their budding relationship, feels overwhelmingly artificial. The dialogue should be sparking, charming, but you get no real sense of why either of these people would fall for the other, excluding the obvious physical attributes of each. The rom-com convention of the Big Secret (Adam's addiction) is left dangling until, surprise, it's defused early. I'd expect the movie to push further since there is a wealth of drama to be had about the trust levels of dating a sex addict, but instead it just forces them apart all too easy. Then there's the fact that the movie covers perhaps a month of time and their relationship seems to move ridiculously fast, mostly because Blumberg is impatient for his couple to get to a more physically intimate stage.
Thanks for Sharing works far better as a darker drama, and as a movie, when it focuses on the roles of Mike and Neil. The film smartly connects sex addiction with other impulse control issues; for Mike he's been sober from booze for 15 years, and for Neill he has weight control issues. These are the characters we see struggle, these are the characters at the more interesting points. Neill especially is a doctor whose hit rock bottom and can't get away from the felonious things his addiction tempts him to do. Mike has a surrogate family with his support group. Now that his prodigal son (Patrick Fugit) returns, that adds tension to his family dynamic, both at home and in group. I would have preferred Thanks for Sharing to be told chiefly from the perspective of these characters, eliminating Adam and Phoebe altogether. But even these good storylines find themselves wading into all-too familiar plot devices. Mike's arc involves reconnecting with his son, which will lead to a misunderstanding, a conflict, and ultimately forgiveness, and you see every step coming. Neill's journey gets an unexpected boost when he takes initiative to help Dede (Pink a.k.a. Alecia Moore), one of the only ladies in group. Of course it takes a pretty girl to push Neill out of his selfishness and self-loathing, but he does progress, and it's the most emotionally rewarding moment in the film. The problem is that Neill's storyline is tied up in a platonic head-scratcher. Dede takes Neill to a dance hall where they are just there to... dance, but the kind of dancing that hipsters do. It all seems like something for people on drugs, but whatever reason, Neill shaking his groove thing, and coming to an understanding that he will not be touching Dede, makes his character better. I was surprised that Blumberg was able to end the movie on something of a downbeat, falling back to the central message of one day at a time, vigilance.
There is one standout scene that really gets to the scariness of sex addiction succinctly. Once Adam falls off the wagon, which shouldn't be much of a spoiler people, he regroups with Becky (Emily Meade) a gal he had a one-night stand with. Their flirtation is quick, settling into their attraction, and then she engages in behavior that, meant to be alluring, is rather insightful. She has a daddy fixation and wants to be punished as a "bad girl" with Adam pretending to be her stern father. That could be a red flag, but Adam carries on. Then she asks him to slap her. Adam refuses. So she does it herself, beating herself, eventually descending into a mess of tears, screaming. Adam tries to console her, stupidly deciding to try and make contact with her after she keeps screaming, "Don't touch me!" She locks herself in the bathroom and threatens to harm herself. This one moment in the film gets at the damage of sex addiction like nothing else. It points to possible abuse, but really it all falls apart so rapidly that your head is spinning. The conclusion is pat and anticlimactic, but the lead-up is fantastic. If the rest of the movie had been thematically closer to this scene, Thanks for Sharing would be worth sharing.
From an acting standpoint, the cast does a fine job portraying their characters and his or her respective foibles. Ruffalo (The Avengers) is a bit too even keeled for his character. Gad (Jobs, The Internship) is the film's comedic spark but also its greatest source of internal drama, which Gad handles well, showcasing the desperation of Neill. The real surprise is actually pop singer Pink in her first real acting performance (Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle counts under no circumstances). Her introductory monologue, which she nails, makes you take notice that Pink has some genuine acting muscles.
Thanks for Sharing is an uneven mishmash of genres and ideas, rarely settling down into something worthy of the talent at work here. The comedy works against the drama, the drama works against the comedy, the clichéd character developments don't serve anyone, and the overall artificial nature of the central rom-com coupling drags the enjoyment level further down. There is good work here, good acting and some memorable scenes and offhand laughs, but all Thanks for Sharing can amount to is a series of scant moments, passing encounters of entertainment. I didn't find many of the characters to be as nearly compelling as the filmmakers did, and some of their hasty resolutions and developments feel far too simple for an addiction this complicated. The potential of the film is never fully realized. While I'm doubtful rom-com is a good fit for a serious exploration on sex addiction (wasn't Shame hilarious?), it does lend itself to a bevy of juicy setups and possibilities. We get little of these. It's as if the film wanted to present a case for the legitimacy of sex addiction, front-loaded with stats and horror stories and characters to open our eyes, and the notion of telling a laudable story was secondary to the educational efforts. Congrats. Now give me a story to care about.
Nate's Grade: C+
I suggest buying this movie. You will not regret it.
I really wasn't interested in Paltrow and Ruffalo's romance. I found they're puppy love flirtations to simply be annoying, and so I didn't really care whether they stuck it out or not. I did find Ruffalo's performance to be interesting, but couldn't stand his character arc. It felt so formulaic for him to go the direction he went.
The character and performer that I enjoyed the most was Josh Gad's new to the program addict. Gad has a raw honesty that makes him endearing, and I really felt like his character was the heart of the first 45 minutes. I wish he had more to do other than deal with the worst character in the film, Alicia Moore's tough girl. I could have done without her in this film.
There is a lot of good material here about the benefits of 12 step groups and community to help you get through your addiction. Plus, it was helpful to see a movie about addiction that had a hopeful twist. Even if the film didn't really deal with addiction with the weight it deserves, I did appreciate Blumberg's positive spin on recovery.
As a writer, I think Blumberg has some interesting ideas. I did find his dialogue to be a little weak, but overall I think he's a solid screenwriter (I really enjoyed The Kids Are Alright and The Girl Next Door). Unfortunately, he's not a strong enough director yet to handle a script or a cast of this magnitude. He doesn't seem capable of balancing all the different story threads in a way that is satisfying, and he leans too much on indie movie tropes like hipster characters and indie rock music.
There is some good material here, and a few interesting performances. Unfortunately, Thanks for Sharing is too shallow and uneven to be a great film.
The story follows three sex addicts who are in various stages of dealing with their problem. Mark Ruffalo is Adam, a man who is five years "sober" (as addicts call it, even if their addiction has nothing to do with alcohol), but has gone so far as not even allowing himself to have any intimate or even romantic relationships with anyone... that is, until he meets Gwyneth Paltrow's Phoebe. Tim Robbins plays Mike, Adam's sponsor and the leader of their recovery group. Josh Gad is both funny and heartbreaking as Neil, a single doctor who is just beginning to grapple with his addiction.
Adam and Phoebe are adorable together, but we wonder if their relationship is doomed from the start. Phoebe tells Adam that she used to date an alcoholic and promised herself she would never be with an addict again... but doesn't realize that sexual addiction is "a thing". Adam has had such a problem with sexual addiction (and closed himself off from women for so long), that he may not have the capacity for a healthy romantic relationship. Mike has been a great help to Adam, but he has problems of his own. Mike has very high standards and shows disdain for everyone who doesn't live up to them - including his adult son who has recently come back into his life and claims to have kicked his previous drug habit. Neil is in a race against time to get his addiction under control before he loses everything. He finds an unlikely friend and mutually-supportive relationship in Dede, played marvelously by Alecia Moore, better known as the rock star Pink.
"Thanks for Sharing" sheds light on a problem also dealt with in 2011's "Shame", but is less voyeuristic and more accessible to a mass audience. This film is educational without being preachy, funny without being disrespectful to the subject matter and entertaining without letting you forget what's at stake for each of these characters. Their problems feel real, the humor feels natural and the acting is just terrific. I thank writer-director Stuart Blumberg for sharing this very compelling film with us and give "Thanks for Sharing" an "A".
This seems to shy away from showing sex addictions true nature.