Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Gwyneth Paltrow
Directed by: Stuart Blumberg (debut)
Written by: Stuart Blumberg (“The Kids Are All Right”) and Matt Winston (debut)
In recent years, there’s been a focus on the topic of sex addiction, especially in the realm of celebrities. Stars like Charlie Sheen, Tiger Woods and David Duchovny have been proclaimed as sex addicts with the latter two actually checking into rehab to work on their conditions. Despite their efforts for treatment, a debate rages on whether or not sex addiction is even a real thing, or rather an excuse or justification for infidelity or promiscuity. While the attention of sex addiction in the media has been on celebrities in the spotlight and under the microscope, Hollywood has recently taken a look at regular people in their sex addictions. The film “Shame,” for example, showed a very dark side of the addiction, revealing self-destructive, dangerous, and obsessive behaviors akin to any other type of dangerous dependence. While “Thanks for Sharing” doesn’t quite delve into the pitch black tone of a film like “Shame,” it is nonetheless an interesting look at sex addiction and its impact on relationships.
Adam (Mark Ruffalo) is a recovering sex addict who is celebrating five years of sobriety. To keep him on the right track, he continues to attend meetings run by his sponsor Mike (Tim Robbins). Also attending meetings is Neil, (Josh Gad) a doctor whose addiction and deviancy is bordering on unmanageable. Each of them, in various stages of their addiction, struggle with relationships, primarily Adam, who is hesitant to jump into one with Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), a love interest he meets at a party. Together, the three help each other through their 12 steps and fight the urge of temptation to keep themselves from falling off the wagon.
The successes of the film can largely be attributed to the strength of its core set of veteran actors in Ruffalo, Robbins and Paltrow. Robbins is great as the patriarchal figure in a few different relationships, and provides a solid presence throughout the film. Ruffalo and Paltrow work great on screen together and their relationship is the best pairing throughout the film. “Thanks for Sharing” also features a strong turn from Gad, who has tended to overdo things in previous films. Gad’s plays for comedy aren’t as successful here, but his attempt at drama is quite nice and he adds a lot of solid traits to his schlubby character.
With Ruffalo’s and Robbins’ characters currently “sober,” the first half the film is less of a focus on how their addictions are harming them now, but rather what the impact of their previous lives has on their current lives. Ruffalo’s character, for example, only allows himself to use electronics when absolutely necessary and cannot be in the same room as a TV to rid himself of temptation. There is a certain level of embarrassment that Ruffalo plays when courting Paltrow’s character that is evident. It’s really interesting to watch that relationship play out knowing what we know about his character’s past.
The writing of the film is one of its stronger points, with a levelheaded script that avoids cliché for the most part. Of course, Robbins’ character has a rolodex of adages and sayings that he spews off the top of his head, but it’s believable when you considering he has been leading group meetings for years and years. The strong writing is most evident in the portrayal of these intimate and intense meetings with people bearing their souls for one another. The film captures these meetings and the darker parts of sex addiction relatively well, without ever getting too gratuitous.
That being said, the film can be a little uneven at times. A few of Gad’s obsessive and perverted behaviors are a little silly and the first half of the film strives for a bit of a humorous tone with mixed results. The back half of the film is nearly exclusively somber in tone. One story in particular is over the top in its execution, but the film manages to just barely stay grounded. It’s not a perfect film by any stretch, but “Thanks for Sharing” is a decent little glimpse into the world of addiction and the struggles that addicts go through to maintain sobriety, even years after becoming clean.