*** (out of four)
If ever there were a movie to accept, warts and all, it’s “Thanks for Sharing,” an uneven but generally effective drama about sex addiction that grants people their imperfections without letting them off the hook. There are serious, honestly played consequences for out-of-control behavior here. The same cannot be said for next week’s disappointingly simplistic, porn addiction-related “Don Jon.”
That self-destructive powerlessness is what it takes to make an addiction story connect, and should speak even to viewers who giggle at notions of sex addiction. (To all of you: Go watch the extraordinary “Shame.” Now.) Recovering sex addict Adam (Mark Ruffalo) proudly celebrates five years of sobriety, which doesn’t mean abstinence. It means he’s five years clean from masturbation and sex outside of a committed relationship, which isn’t easy to confess when he meets Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), who promised herself she’d never date another addict.
Time out: I can’t stand Paltrow as a person, but both the actress and “Thanks For Sharing” deserve credit for making Phoebe genuinely cool and likable. She and Adam are pretty cute together, and how often do I say that about an onscreen couple? Not that often.
Directed and co-written by “The Kids are All Right” co-writer Stuart Blumberg, “Sharing” also features Tim Robbins as Adam’s sponsor, Mike (recovering from numerous vices himself), and Josh Gad as Neil, a sex addict struggling to get through just one day without a fix. Blumberg errs whenever he leans on pop culture references or tries to get a laugh out of Neil’s awkwardness—ha, he’s really sweaty! And he just fell off his bike!—but succeeds in the recklessness that throws Neil's life off course and the temptation that threatens to do it again.
Clearly, a sometimes-goofy, frequently sympathetic romantic comedy that justly treats addiction as a disease won’t always hit the right tone. It’s challenging to deliver scenes like Mike clashing with his estranged son (Patrick Fugit) about past wrongs or Neil talking Dede (Pink) down from a relapse without succumbing to melodrama. However, these interactions are well-written and well-acted, as are the difficult dynamics between Adam and Phoebe, whose undeniable chemistry can’t mask that this relationship isn’t filled with the sunshine and roses everyone hypothetically hopes for.
These are problems you feel in your heart, instead of your head saying, “Pff, lame.”
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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