Thanks For Sharing (2013) – Review

“Feelings are like children. You don’t want them driving the car but you can’t throw them in the trunk”.  Wise words spoken by Tim Robbins’ esoteric Mike as he attempts to control one of his rehabilitating partners, but Thanks For Sharing is quick to break its own ideology.  Un-shy in its sentimentality from the first frame, the feelings are very much the driving force in director Stuart Blumberg’s story of sex addiction among three disparate souls trying to break free from their afflictions through sobriety meetings.  Too often a film is condemned for such things; being saccharine and schmaltzy when actually it’s simply being innocently forthright with its emotions.  Josh Boone’s wonderful Stuck In Love. and Nat Rash & Jim Faxon’s delightful The Way, Way Back, both from earlier this year, are completely celebratory with their emotions, and I think are the better for it.  Thanks For Sharing struck me in a similar way.  The fact that it’s so blatantly trying to tug at those heartstrings isn’t bothersome.  The fact that it doesn’t quite work, that’s bothersome.

The most pressing problem is that it never quite settles down enough to decide exactly what it wants to say.   Generally speaking it’s an interesting and often very grueling study of addiction, completely throwing away its inhibitions and getting right down into the muck, yet it doesn’t quite break any boundaries.  On the one hand we feel as if we’ve seen this before, for better or for worse, and on the other it seems to be trying to get the best of both worlds, as it sort of gets stuck somewhere in between the sleazy candidness of Shame and the fluffy sprightliness of 500 Days Of Summer.  One moment it’s trying its hardest to make you weep and the next it’s shouting obscenities in your face.  Yet, to be fair, all of these problems are generally counterbalanced by well-observed and empathetic characters who we believe in and care about.  Their relationships, importantly, feel important, and we find ourselves really rooting for all three of the leads to find the one and only goal that matters: happiness.

The credibility of the relationships is, in no small part, thanks to the excellent principle cast.  Ruffalo is fantastically afflicted, and his sparky relationship with fitness-fanatic Paltrow has some great chemistry.  Paltrow certainly has that ‘girl next door’ sort of charm, which isn’t entirely surprising given Blumberg wrote the 2003 Elisha Cuthbert vehicle The Girl Next Door.  The real standout, though, is Josh Gad.  He embraces the role of the sex-addicted, overweight try-hard with such genuineness that our hearts really go out to him.  It’s his storyline that reminds us of what addiction really is and why we’re watching the film.

With a slightly unbalanced tone and an (arguably) rather contrived final scene, this isn’t a film that many people will love, but it certainly has enough compelling ideas and strong performances to make it worth your time.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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