Thursday, September 26, 2013


Rated: R

Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Josh Gad, Tim Robbins, Pink, Patrick Fugit

Director: Stuart Blumberg

Genre:  Dark Comedy

Apparently, the difference between a "normal" guy and a sex addict is that the normal guy will see an attractive woman on the street and start having fantasies about her. The sex addict will observe the same woman, have those same fantasies, and then act on them in some inappropriate way. In essence, then, the difference is one of self-control. Which should confirm many of the suspicions you've had about us all along, ladies!

Thanks For Sharing follows three New Yorkers whose lives intersect as they work their 12-Step program for sex addiction. There is Adam, (Mark Ruffalo) who is a good looking, successful guy who would seem to have it all. He is now five years "sober". (It's interesting that they use the AA parlance in all of these programs  to denote the abstaining from self-destructive behaviors.) When Adam stays in a hotel room he has to have the TV removed because it would be too tempting for him to watch porn and fall back into his old ways. Committed relationships are encouraged in the program, and Adam begins something with a blonde named Phoebe, (Gwyneth Paltrow) whose overindulgence has to do with exercise and fitness.  

Mike (Tim Robbins) is a burly middle-aged guy who seems to have his doo-doo together and acts as a sponsor within the program. But he has issues with his son, Danny, (Patrick Fugit) who has his own issues with substance abuse.

And then there is Neal, (Josh Gad) who provides the true comic presence in this dark comedy that is otherwise mostly...dark. Neal is a roly-poly emergency room doctor who has been court ordered to do 12-Step because he does things like rub up against women on the subway.

The three story lines work well in Thanks For Sharing because each of our protagonists is struggling to keep it together in his own way, and there is nothing that renders one more human--and thus worthy of rooting for--than to have his demons laid bare for all to observe. And what come through loud and clear is that even those of us who are considered to be more or less normal--whatever that means in a world where the inmates appear to be running the asylum--may be regarded as such because we're a little more adept at keeping our compulsions under wraps. (Carlos Danger notwithstanding!)

On the one hand, I want to say that Thanks For Sharing is one of the best movies I've seen this year. On the other, I wish they could have dialed it back a bit on the melodrama to make it more believable. In certain places I felt that the film was right on the verge of turning into Reefer Madness for sex addiction. (If you recall, the campy, moralistic melodrama from the thirties had people turning into monsters after smoking one joint.) Case in point: There is one character here, a young female, who is so over the top on the bizarre meter that her scene would be downright laughable if it weren't so godawful gritty and scary. 

So for the first time, I'm giving a film a dual rating. The first is for the performances of this fine ensemble cast and as a creative work as a whole. Grade : A  
The second is for realism. Grade: C 


Two ratings? Gimme a break, Tim. I agree wholeheartedly with your first one. THANKS FOR SHARING is an excellent movie on many, many levels. The acting is top-notch, the characters are spot on. And I would bet my virginity (long gone) that the script writers are all in some 12 Step program. They know the jargon, the games 'newbies' play, the egos that won't quit. Because all these 12 step programs encourage rigorous honesty—the hardest thing for addicts of any kind to get in touch with—let me begin by saying I am seventeen years sober and have attended a mountain of AA meetings. (As well as ACOA, Al-Anon and CODA) In other words, when I say THANKS FOR SHARING is the real deal, I know whereof I speak.

For me, the standout performance in this film is given by Josh Gad. Who is this guy and why haven't I seen him before? Probably because I don't watch The Daily Showwhere he plays a regular correspondent. Nor have I seen "The Book of Mormon" where he played Elder Arnold Cunningham. Anyway, he has the knack of turning his perversions into humorous bits—until they finally get him fired.

Another actor who deserves a nod is Pink (Alecia Beth Moore) who plays Dede, the female version of a sex addict. The interplay between her and Neal (Gad), really illustrates how vital friendships between fellow sufferers can be. They are one of the cornerstones of recovery. I remember when I was first getting sober, I connected with a gal named Brenda. Under different circumstances we would never have been friends. But our need to connect, to support each other in times of temptation was invaluable. What I'm curious to know is whether people with no personal 12 step experience will understand how essential going to meetings, working the steps, getting a sponsor is after seeing THANKS FOR SHARING.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Rated: R

Stars: Miles Teller,  Shailene Woodley,  Jennifer Jason Leigh,  Kyle Chandler

Director:  James Ponsoldt

Genre: Drama/ Romance-comedy

The Spectacular Now is a small gem of a movie with a splashy title that features a soon to be prominent film star (my prediction) in the young Shailene Woodley. (You might remember her as the George Clooney character's daughter in The Descendants.) More on the talented Ms. Woodley in a moment.

Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) is a popular high school kid who drinks too much. He and his girlfriend, Cassidy, (Brie Larson) are the life of the party because they can dance and know how to booze it up (the two main attributes a high-schooler must possess to be popular.) But as we enter their lives, they are breaking up due to a misunderstanding. Or maybe they just saw each other one time in the light of day when they were both sober. So Sutter begins to imbibe even more to deal with his loss.

Not surprisingly, Sutter is a slacker in school.  He has a teacher who cares, who knows that the kid would do well if he would just apply himself. Despite it all, he's a sympathetic character (a mite reminiscent of  Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate) with whom many of us can identify because he doesn't want to grow up. 

Enter Aimee Finecky, (Shailene Woodley) a rather plain-looking and plain-spoken--read nerdy--type who becomes Sutter's rebound girl.  That's not to say that she isn't beautiful. It's the kind of beauty that radiates from within and shines from without on her exquisitely expressive face. A face that hits all the right marks at the appropriate times. So unspoiled, so real, so sincere, and yes, a bit naive--that you can't fathom why he doesn't fall head-over-heels for her right away. And that is high tribute to the talents and fresh-faced appeal of Ms. Woodley. 

But Sutter is troubled, and the key to his alcohol abuse may lie with his estranged father, whom he hasn't seen since early childhood. He is compelled to find the man--and in the process, he hopes--to find himself as well.

The appeal of The Spectacular Now is that  we have a young couple--on the verge of high school graduation and facing major changes in their lives (undertones of American Graffiti) that we can root for, despite the odds that are stacked against them. 

Grade:  B +


This is our tenth joint review, Tim and I. And finally, at long last, we have a spectacular conflict of opinions. I felt there were more holes in this script than Sutter Keeley's propensity for telling untruths. The most blantant being how our leading brat's rampant alcoholism is never really addressed. All it takes in this coming-of-age saga is following your sweetheart to the college of her choice. (Who needs Alcoholics Anonymous?)

As for "the teacher who cares," he is prominently featured at the beginning and then conveniently disappears by the end. And then there's Sutter's mom. The first time we meet her, she's pissed at her son for forgetting to hang up her uniform so it won't be wrinkled when she has to go to work. The second time, she's pissed at her son for showing up at her place of business and demanding to know who and where his father is. Basically, theirs is not an ideal mother/son relationship. Then—with zero preparation—she becomes a validating parent. Convenient but totally unrealistic.

I could go on...and on...and on. But as is my custom with these mini movie comments, I like to end on a positive note. There is a beautifully directed and very real sex scene between the two leads that touched my heart and made me recall "my first time." I defy anyone to watch this particular scene without being moved. Nonetheless, I'd call this film a bomb-in-the-making.

Grade: C –