Movies about addiction have dotted the film landscape since the early days of the medium, but most of them have dealt with the horrors that alcohol and drug abuse can heap on addicts and the people around them. Sex addiction, however, has rarely been touched upon, which already makes Thanks for Sharing notable.
It’s doubly so, though, because writer/director Stuart Blumberg (The Kids Are All Right) not only tackles the thorny subject, but he also attempts to fashion it into a romantic comedy of sorts. The film mainly follows three members of a sex addiction group: Adam (Mark Ruffalo), Mike (Tim Robbins) and Neil (Josh Gad).
In another film, Adam and Phoebe’s courtship would be a fun ride, but because Adam’s issues threaten to derail their progress at any moment, it’s hard to enjoy any part of it.
Adam, despite being in recovery for a long time, hasn’t trusted himself to date until he finally meets the confident and flirtatious Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow). Mike is the de facto leader of the group, but his past woes have led to long-term harm on the home front. Neil is a doctor whose urges constantly get him in trouble until he meets Dede (Alecia Moore, a.k.a. Pink), the rare female in the group, with whom he finds a kinship.
Blumberg addresses the elephant in the room — is sex addiction even a real thing? — early on in the film, but it still hangs over the proceedings for much of the running time. To his credit, he never treats the malady in a light-hearted manner, taking care to address the myriad ways that sex addiction could adversely affect someone’s life.
The main storylines are somewhat of a mixed bag. In another film, Adam and Phoebe’s courtship would be a fun ride, but because Adam’s issues threaten to derail their progress at any moment, it’s hard to enjoy any part of it. It doesn’t help matters that Paltrow verges on manic in many of their scenes, as if it were her character with an addiction, not Ruffalo’s.
Mike’s journey is a tad more affecting, as the effect his actions have had on his wife (Joely Richardson) and son (Patrick Fugit) are intense. The interaction of their family unit, through all the highs and lows, are some of the film’s best scenes.
Surprisingly, the friendship between Neil and Dede makes the grade as well. Gad’s appearance and demeanor make it tough to take him seriously, but after a bit of a rough start, he settles in nicely. He’s helped immensely by Moore, who does well in her first big mainstream role. The two actors, in an arc that’s strictly friendship, have much more chemistry together than Ruffalo and Paltrow.
However, the film as a whole never reaches the heights that its high-powered cast would suggest. Blumberg never takes the story as deep as the subject matter deserves or as light-hearted as the tone seems to suggest. Consequently, Thanks for Sharing is stuck in-between, never allowing the audience to fully connect with any of the characters or anything it has to say.