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.
GRADE: A +