MRR Review: "Thanks for Sharing"

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A romantic comedy that brings together three disparate characters who are learning to face a challenging and often confusing world as they struggle together against a common demon: sex addiction.
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MRR Review: "Thanks for Sharing"

Rating: R (language and some strong sexual content)
Length: 112 minutes
Release Date: Sept. 20, 2013
Directed by: Stuart Blumberg
Genre: Comedy/Drama

Adam (Mark Ruffalo) is an entrepreneur who is handsome, has a good job, and has just met Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), who might be the woman of his dreams. The problem is that he is a sex addict who has been in recovery for five years, and this is the first time he has allowed himself to even remotely become romantically interested in someone. He knows that lots of people think sex addiction is a bunch of hooey, and he is afraid to open up to Phoebe about it in "Thanks for Sharing," a film that intertwines the stories of several sex addicts who are in recovery.

Rejection is not the only thing Adam has to worry about when he tells Phoebe about his condition. He also worries that if they were to get intimate, it could completely unravel all the hard work he has put in over the last five years trying to keep his addiction in check. He turns to his sponsor, Mike (Tim Robbins), whom he looks up to as a father figure of sorts. They have a great surrogate father-son relationship that stands in stark contrast to Mike's relationship with his own son, Danny (Patrick Fugit), who is a drug addict.

Meanwhile, physician Neil (Josh Gad) can't even ride the subway, because he is afraid his sex addiction will compel him to grab random women. He gets fired from his job for using a camera to look up the skirt of a coworker, which lands him in hot water with the law. He is ordered to undergo rehab, where the lives of all the characters collide. There, he meets Dede (Alecia Moore, better known as pop singer Pink), and he forms a warm friendship with her that isn't rooted in sex or desire. In helping each other through rehab and sponsorship, these addicts all get the support they need to make it through the day, but whether they can make it in the long term is another issue altogether.

The script from Stuart Blumberg and Matt Winston takes sex addiction seriously, although both writers clearly know that it is a controversial topic. When Paltrow's character laughs at Ruffalo's because she thinks that people just use sex addiction as an excuse when they get caught, it's a very telling moment. The writers know that a lot of doubt surrounds the issue of sex addiction, yet they strive to put a very human face on it. They largely succeed, in part because they create characters who are still relatable despite their condition. It doesn't hurt that the entire cast is full of top-notch actors, including Moore, who before now has had only small cameos in films, mostly playing herself. In "Thanks for Sharing," she is forced to stretch her acting muscles, and the result is a good performance.

Moore's sidekick in the film is played by Gad, who is almost unrecognizable here. That's not to say that he has dyed his hair or changed his appearance at all; in fact, he looks much the same as he did in his recent NBC sitcom "1600 Penn" and in his Broadway hit "The Book of Mormon." What is unrecognizable is his character's attitude. The happy-go-lucky spirit that he usually inhabits in most of his roles is replaced by something more morose in "Thanks for Sharing." Though he does get an occasional funny scene with Moore, the film is mostly full of high drama for his character, with the threat of legal action always looming overhead. What is even more astounding is that somehow, he imbues Neil with just enough likability that the audience roots for him, even though he is a sex offender. Between this role and his turn as Steve Wozniak in "Jobs," Gad is showing Hollywood casting directors that he has the chops to play drama as well as comedy.

The film will likely be compared to "Shame," the 2011 Michael Fassbender vehicle that took a dark and often ominous look at sex addiction. The comparison isn't really fair though, because "Shame" was all drama, whereas "Thanks for Sharing" has the heart of a romantic comedy with quite a bit of drama thrown in. It goes from funny and occasionally lighthearted to dark and tragic at the drop of a hat, which makes the film feel occasionally unbalanced. However, it overcomes this small issue with fantastic performances and a solid script that tries to convince the audience that sex addiction is real without judging the addicts themselves.

Rating: 3 out of 5