Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Film Review: Thanks for Sharing

(This review is very much overdue and it will be brief)

We live in a very sensual world.  You cannot turn on the TV without seeing something, anything that is meant to elicit a lustful response.  As a result, more and more people are becoming to addicted to sex and pornography.  Most people treat this as a joke, but the movie Thanks for Sharing takes a sobering look at this real problem.

The story follows three main characters in a sex addiction group.  Adam (Mark Ruffalo) is 5 years sober.  His sponsor is the aphorism spouting Mike (Tim Robbins).  And Adam is sponsoring new member Neil (Josh Gad).  These characters give us a window into the different stages of living a life of temperance, from Neil's initial denial to Mike's long term relationship scarring.  But the movie is centered on Adam as he meets Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow) and he struggles between his attraction to her and awaking the beast of lust inside of him.

The good part about this film is that it handles an ugly subject with relative grace.  There is a lot of talk of pornography without actually showing it (unlike the the in-your-face style of Joseph Gordon-Leavitt's Don Jon).  It takes the subject seriously and shows how wounded these men are.  The are not cured.  They walk a tightrope every day.  If they stray even a little, they will be lost.

I very much appreciated how they approached the subject.  It shows how lust dehumanizes us.  In a nice bit of visual metaphor, there is a scene where Neil tries to give up both pornography and donuts.  He turns off his computer and he throws out the donuts.  But he returns to the garbage on the internet and he also reaches into the garbage to grab another donut.

The performances were very good especially Ruffalo and Gad.  You can see the seething layers of lust that Adam has only learned to tame with constant habit.  Gad has Neil both pathetic and sympathetic, getting to laugh at him and root for him.

Having said all of that, I wish the movie was better.

The movie has two big problems.  The first is that it is kinda boring.  The story moves at a snails pace.  And at just under 2 hours, it feels longer.

The second is the lack of chemistry between Ruffalo and Paltrow.  This is surprising since I think that they are both talented actors.  But there was some spark lacking on screen.  I could see how they fit together, it made logical sense.  But emotionally I could never root for the relationship to work out.  There are other women characters played by Joely Richardson and Pink (credited as Alicia Moore) who also do fine jobs, but they seem to be there only to service the character arc of the men.

The movie also is just on the good side of preachy.  Mike keeps spouting so many wise one-liners about sobriety that other characters have to call him on it.  It felt like the movie was acknowledging that it was preaching, but wanted to diffuse the tension.  Writer/director Stuart Blumburg seems more interested in the subject of addiction than the characters going through it.

In the end, Thanks for Sharing is not a bad movie.  It just does not have enough power to be a good movie.

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