Thanks for Sharing | C+
We blame Michael Douglas. Acting as a kind of celebrity patient zero, he claimed he was a victim of sexual addiction (an affliction that seems particular to wealthy white males) before anyone had ever heard of the term. Now everyone from Tiger Woods to Russell Brand blames their excessive desire for booty on bad biological wiring. And though it seems to be a particularly hot topic right now, inspiring Steve McQueen’s 2012 art installation masquerading as an indie film Shame (which starred a joylessly oversexed Michael Fassbender), research has raised serious questions about whether obsessive horniness actually qualifies as addiction.
Fact or fiction, the travails of sex addicts offer good opportunities for attractive Hollywood types to get smutty in the name of drama. And as many a female filmgoer will attest, Mark Ruffalo makes for a pretty snackable lead. He plays Adam, an environmental consultant who has embraced celibacy as a way to curb his voraciously self-destructive sexual appetites. When he meets cute with Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), he fears that a real relationship will open the door to his former carnal obsessions. Adam’s five-year sobriety was under the tutelage of his happily married sponsor Mike (Tim Robbins), who’s dealing with the reappearance of his substance-abusing son (Patrick Fugit). Meanwhile, Neil (Josh Gad), a less-than-dedicated member of their 12-step program, has jeopardized his future as an M.D. with his compulsively pervy behavior.
The three men’s pathologies differ but they all seem to suffer most from being white, educated males of greater-then-modest means. Perhaps recognizing this abundance of testosterone, first-time director Stuart Blumberg (who scripted The Kids Are All Right) introduces Neil to fellow sex-fiend Dede (Alecia Moore, aka Pink), an addict who straddles the line between gal-pal and possible girlfriend. Furthermore, he smartly links their behavior to other more recognizable addictions — alcoholism, drugs and compulsive overeating — suggesting that their sexual cravings are connected to underlying psychological issues.
Awkwardly shifting between drama and humor, this therapy sitcom is schematically plotted, hitting all its dramatic mile markers at just the right moment, rendering everything neat and predictable. Director Blumberg effectively weaves together his various story threads but offers up few surprises, never threatening the men’s security in way that generates worry or heat. Only a unsettling encounter between Ruffalo and a troubled young ex bedmate suggests the dark places his uncontrollable urges can take him. Blumberg’s direction is similarly undistinguished, shot with the same flat, overlit visuals you find on television.
What makes Thanks for Sharing so palatable is the committed cast, which brings just the right mix of levity and seriousness to its roles. There’s real chemistry (and tension) to Ruffalo and Paltrow’s eating-disordered love interest, and Gad, an actor I haven’t been fond of in the past, finds authentic moments of pain and self-loathing. Most surprising is Pink, who often registers as a stronger character than her male counterparts. There’s an edge to her performance that suggests she was ready to tackle something meatier than this ultimately pointless exercise in self-help hugs.
Thanks for Sharing is in theaters Sept. 20 and is rated R with a running time of 110 minutes. Watch trailer here.