There's a monkey on Judge Michael Nazarewycz's back. He's fighting the urge to spank it.
"It's like trying to quit crack while the pipe's attached to your body."
I came for the Avengers. I stayed for the snowman.
Facts of the Case
Adam (Mark Ruffalo, Now You See Me) is a sex addict with a five-year sobriety chip. He finds himself long removed from knowing what a healthy relationship is when he meets and falls for Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow, Iron Man 3). Adam's sponsor, another long-recovering sex addict, is his friend Mike (Tim Robbins, The Shawshank Redemption), a man who is struggling to reconnect with his estranged son. New to Adam and Mike's circle are Neil (Josh Gad, jOBS), a young doctor damaged by his addiction, and Dede (Alecia Moore aka Pink, Happy Feet Two), a hairdresser looking to break a cycle of self-abuse. Their lives intersect at their frequent Anonymous meetings, and their need for each other's support is never more critical as each faces unique demons.
It's easy to take lightly the notion of sexual addiction. People seem to better comprehend addiction to drugs or alcohol or cigarettes because there is this tangible thing there—this chemical—whereas sex addiction seems less about physical dependency and more about self-control. Even gambling, which has no comparable physical component to those other things—has the association of financial ruin to draw sympathy. To paraphrase Paltrow from this film, "sex addict" sounds like something a guy says when he is caught cheating. Sex (with or without a partner) is pleasurable, requires no external component and, as we are all taught, is natural. How can that be addictive?
It can be, and big time, as illustrated in Thanks for Sharing. While certainly not a documentary or clinical examination, the film offers interesting insight into the finer points of the disease and does a good job at dramatizing what constitutes sexual addiction and the impact it can have on an average person.
Adam, the central central character in the film, struggles with how to tell his new flame, Phoebe, about his disease, and how she will react when she learns of it. Mike, while not dealing with his sex addiction per se, has a superiority complex to manage when his son, a recovering drug user, comes home. Neil is new to working at his addiction (and is seeking treatment because the court says he must); his perspective is that of the newly-diagnosed skeptic, struggling with things like denial and lying. These are men you know, men you see every day.
Then there is Dede, who is…well, Dede is the girl of the group and little more.
Dede is also the symptom of a major flaw from writer Matt Winston and writer/director Stuart Blumberg—the film doesn't do women well at all. Dede's history is less rich backstory and more short-form character bio, and she seems thrown in almost to show that, hey, it's not just guys at these meetings. The casting of Pink, whose acting is fast forgettable, suggests the filmmakers wanted a certain type of female character (tough, inked), but didn't need to invest in an actress who could give the character anything to root for. Mike's wife Katie (Joely Richardson, Nip/Tuck) isn't much better, having little more to do than object when Mike rails at his son.
The central female—Phoebe—is the most interesting of all the women, having had issues with an addict before (alcohol, but still), which makes Adam's conundrum worse. Unfortunately, Paltrow just isn't good in this role. Her acting is bad, and despite her experience and awards success, she never convinces me she is the character.
In the men's bracket, Robbins is fine as the boorish father and Patrick Fugit (We Bought a Zoo) is fine as his son. Ruffalo, no longer surprisingly, brings his A-game to a film that he could have coasted through. He adds great depth and pathos to a character who could have come across as terribly shallow.
But's it's Josh Gad who steals the show as the young, troubled doctor. Gad, who blew me away as the voice of Olaf the snowman in Disney's Frozen, is on my list of comedic actors who desperately need a true dramatic vehicle to show full range. Sadly (like another on that list, Melissa McCarthy), I suspect Gad's comedy-first resume and non-leading-man appearance might make that chance more difficult. I hope not. I would like to see Gad follow the path of Jonah Hill, not Seth Rogen.
While the film doesn't have anywhere near the impact of Steve McQueen's masterful sex addiction drama Shame, it is far more accessible and in many ways more believable. Thanks for Sharing deals not only with the isolation the addiction can cause, it looks at the many different ripples it can cause as well, and how those ripples affect others.
The Blu-ray's 1.78:1/1080p imagery is crisp and serves the film well, particularly with the more upscale interiors—places like Ruffalo's apartment and Robbins' house—where great (and fine) detail is paid to the sets. The DTS-HD 5.1 audio is clear and ambient noise is unobtrusive yet discernible.
In addition to commentary from writer Matt Winston and writer/director Stuart Blumberg, there is a 3-minute Gag Reel, which is actually an apt description, as it's more the cast goofing around than it is true outtakes or bloopers. There is a collection of seven deleted scenes totaling about 10 minutes (see my thoughts on these in the Rebuttal Witnesses section). There is also a 15-minute Making Of short.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Despite its heavy subject matter, Thanks for Sharing keeps its feet in lighter rom-com waters a little too much. Gad is the go-to for pure comic relief (a mixed blessing—he can be entertaining, but within the context of the subject, his asked for it a little too much), but even other scenes feel like they don't want to go as dark as they should.
Also, and again this is no fault of his, the storyline about Gad and his mother is underdeveloped to the point of being useless. It's understandable that a sex addict will have a parental confrontation to make, but his mother is a ridiculous stereotype that feels inserted for obligation and then given a comic twist (especially with the casting of comedic actress Carol Kane, yet another example of the filmmakers' female character failure). As for those deleted scenes, most would have contributed to the humor aspect of the film, so I think it was good that they were removed, but there are a pair of Ruffalo-centric clips that get deep—and quickly—into his character's head that might have darkened his character a little more had they remained in the film.
I've never dismissed sex addiction, but I will admit my view of it has always been with a hairy eyeball. No more.
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