Sex addiction is a tricky topic – some believe that it’s a genuine disease that deserves to be treated on the same level as drugs and alcohol, while others think it’s a convenient excuse for a certain type of behavior – which is probably why so few movies have been made on the subject. But whereas 2011’s “Shame” took a darker look at the effects of sex addiction, writer/director Stuart Blumberg’s “Thanks for Sharing” is more interested in the recovery phase. As a result, it’s bound to garner much less attention than the NC-17 rated Steve McQueen drama, and rightfully so, because this is pretty standard indie fare that’s only elevated by its ensemble cast.
The film follows the intersecting lives of three men in various stages of recovery. Eco-friendly businessman Adam (Mark Ruffalo) has been sober for five years, and when he finally jumps back into the dating pool at the behest of his sponsor Mike (Tim Robbins), he meets the beautiful Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), who has obvious concerns about his “addiction.” Mike, meanwhile, is a 12-step guru who trusts so much in the program that he doesn’t believe his drug addict son Danny (Patrick Fugit) – who suddenly returns home one night after a years-long absence – could possibly get clean on his own. And lastly, there’s Neil (Josh Gad), a schlubby doctor who’s been court ordered to attend sex addiction meetings and assigned Adam as his sponsor. Neil is in denial about the whole thing, but when he gets fired from his job for secretly filming up his boss’ skirt, he decides to take the program more seriously with the help of a fellow sex addict named Dede (Alecia Moore, aka Pink).
As you might expect from a movie called “Thanks for Sharing” (and written by the same guy behind the dialogue-heavy “The Kids Are All Right”), this is a very talky film that relies even more than usual on its actors to drive the story. Luckily, Blumberg’s directorial debut is buoyed by solid performances from top to bottom. Ruffalo is one of the most reliable actors working today, and though he doesn’t disappoint here, his story is the least interesting of the bunch, partly due to Paltrow’s underdeveloped character. Robbins and Fugit turn in some good work as the emotionally distant father-son pair, but the Neil/Dede subplot is the most enjoyable because we get to witness their recovery from the ground floor. Unfortunately, despite some good chemistry between Gad and Moore (in her most high-profile movie role to date), it doesn’t get nearly as much screen time as the other two stories.
Regardless of your opinions on sex addiction, “Thanks for Sharing” works well as a general introduction to any sort of addiction recovery, particularly with its general theme of serving others in order to serve yourself. Of course, that’s also its biggest problem, as the film seems more concerned with drilling the program’s philosophy into the audience’s heads than developing its characters, sometimes more closely resembling a self-help video than a piece of entertainment. Still, it deserves credit for its stark honesty, refusing to pull any punches or let its characters off the hook too easily, and that goes a long way in not only creating a more realistic story, but one that’s more enjoyable than its subject matter might suggest.