Saturday, 28 September 2013

Thanks For Sharing, dir. Stuart Blumberg, scr. Stuart Blumberg, Matt Winston, st. Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Gwyneth Paltrow, Josh Gad, Joely Richardson, Alecia Moore

It's a good time to talk about sex. The LFF is almost upon us with Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave reminding us of the success of 2011's ultra-bleak sex addiction drama Shame (also released is Joseph Gordon-Levitt's similarly themed directorial debut Don Jon), David Cameron wants to filter the Internet clean of smut, and Channel 4 is about to embark upon season of shows under the moniker The Campaign for Real Sex in which a series of intellectuals contribute to a mass debate on the subject of 21st century sexual mores. Enter Thanks For Sharing, the directorial debut from The Kids Are All Right writer Stuart Blumberg. 2010's comedy-drama picked up Golden Globe wins as well as a couple of Oscar nods thanks to its astute thematic detailing and winning ensemble performances, and Sharing continues in much the same vein. The film centers around Adam (Ruffalo), Mike (Robbins) and Neil (Gad), both patrons of the same Sex Addicts therapy group albeit at different stages of the 12-step program. Mike is Adam's sponsor and adopts a defensive 'do as I say, not as I do' position when his ex-addict son turns up on his doorstep, supposedly clean, and intending to turn over a new olive branch extension. Adam begins a tentative relationship with Phoebe (Paltrow), and discovers that try as he might, intimacy and trust don't want to play nice with his recovering debilitating condition, and Neil, new to the group, finds a kindred in fellow sponsee Dede (Moore), whilst yearning for the approval of his sponsor - Adam.

Blumberg's film reminds us how trust and loyalty is cumulatively earned, and how recovery, although maddeningly within reach, refuses to be rushed. In particular, the relationship between Mike and his son Danny (Patrick Fugit) is sensitively played out, with both Father and Son discovering with much disconcertion just how hard faith in the other is to come by. Similarly, Adam's relationship with Phoebe begins with her explaining how destructive her relationship with her addict ex was - not the kind of opening gambit that makes you want to admit to your own compulsion, especially with the kind of deviant stigma attached to Adam's particular ailment. Blumberg's protagonists are falterers and stumblers, yet their imperfections belie an honesty, a desperation to operate within accepted parameters. But the movie also highlights how the unafflicted view bearers of the condition - with instinctive and inherent distrust and suspicion. Thanks for Sharing may not quite achieve a perfect balance between light-hearted whimsy and the requisite gravitas of the usual Addiction Storylines, and Neil's storyline in particular bears the brunt of this awkward abrasive tonality, but the film's baseline levity proves its biggest draw. Ruffalo is as good as anything he's previously been in, a disturbingly compelling actor to watch, and Robbins - like a stateside Bill Nighy - can do warmingly avuncular or pointedly disquieting on a dime. Even Alecia Moore, or 'Pink' as she is commonly known, turns in a performance of surprising clarity and compassion. The film doesn't pretend to know how to diagnose, nor does it leave you reeling - Fassbender-style - with the utter disconsolation of the effects of this particular kind of enslavement, but instead, it offers that rare thing addiction movies seem to have forgotten to include: the aspiration of hope.