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'Thanks for Sharing' takes a poignant look at sex addiction

"Thanks for Sharing," starring Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins and Josh Gad, is a predictable but still detailed and lived-in portrayal of sex addiction recovery.

Mark Ruffalo plays a recovering sex addict dating Gwyneth Paltrow in "Thanks for Sharing." Credit: Anne Joyce Mark Ruffalo plays a recovering sex addict dating Gwyneth Paltrow in "Thanks for Sharing."
Credit: Anne Joyce

‘Thanks for Sharing’
Director: Stuart Blumberg
Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Josh Gad
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

“Thanks for Sharing” will almost certainly wind up screened during support groups of all kinds, and not just for its chosen addiction: sex. That’s not exactly a compliment. It’s an extremely, almost comically basic movie. It feels like it’s been adapted not from a novel or even a self-help book but from a handout leaflet. The narrative conveniently follows three men at three dramatically different stages in their recovery process.

Neil (Josh Gad) is our trusty entryway into this world, a newbie who’s been busted for rubbing up against women on the MTA. His sponsor is Adam (Mark Ruffalo), a vet who’s been “clean” for years and seems to have come full circle. (Spoiler: Maybe he hasn’t!) Lording over them with a smug grin that masks some darker, more pompous intentions is Mike (Tim Robbins), the old fish of the group, who’s also an ex-alkie.

Their trajectories wind up being be exactly what you would imagine. On one hand, watching the film is an act of simply waiting for the right characters to backslide. Will Adam’s newfound relationship with Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow) go swimmingly? Or will his addiction prove too much for her to handle, prompting an epic wagon tumble? Will Neil, who doesn’t initially take the program seriously, prove the real winner, perhaps with the aid of a totally 100 percent platonic friendship with a fellow addict who looks like Pink (played by Pink, surprisingly winningly)? And surely nothing bad will happen when Mike’s estranged son (Patrick Fugit), himself a former junkie, pops up one night.

Predictability, however, isn’t an offense in itself, even when it’s as slap-your-forehead predictable as it is here. Though “Thanks for Sharing” hits every single point you’d expect in a sincere film about being in a 12-step program, it also hits plenty of smaller, more specific ones as well. It is a film clearly made by people who have had, if not first-hand experience with addiction (sex or otherwise), then been very close second-hand. Sex addiction is "in" right now — after “Shame,” there’s “Don Jon” — but “Thanks for Sharing” is the one that wrestles with it most directly.

It understands it generally and personally, and it has actors who know how to make even the most 101 scenes come from a real place. The most predictable part of the film may be that Ruffalo fares best, creating a character so sincere and at the same time so bottled up that when he does (spoiler) crash, revealing his real addict self, the revelation is nearly as disturbing as any in a David Lynch film. Though "Thanks for Sharing" starts out hoary, it, as they say, gets better.

 
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