THANKS FOR SHARING
2 and 1/2 out of 4 stars
Tackling the same skin-crawling issues laid out in the uber-heavy, ultra-depressing, NC-17 rated “Shame,” “Thanks for Sharing” is a triptych of stories filtered through a much more audience-friendly, less risqué, dramedy sieve.
Largely avoiding the seedier negative aspects of what “Shame” examined so well, “Thanks” is permeated with a kind of sit-com lightheartedness no movie such as this should project. In a move to perhaps recognize that the medical community at large does not acknowledge “sexual addiction” as either a disease or an addiction, the filmmakers are sure to mention this fact several times and thus legitimize their largely softball approach to what in actuality is one or all of the following: a syndrome, unchecked hormones or a go-to pat excuse for serial infidelity.
Following the same sort of career trajectory of other Oscar-nominated screenwriters (with about the same level of success), Stuart Blumberg (“The Kids Are All Right”) gets behind the camera for the first time and amply displays his rookie jitters. Blumberg and co-writer Matt Winston — both so wanting it both ways — are alternately deep/serious and shallow/light.
This type of movie is a tough sell for typical rom-com-type fans (over 25-year-old women) so the filmmakers soften it by including a shiny-happy too-cute couple (Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow), a frumpy, but loveable amalgamation of Jack Black, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill (Josh Gad), an edgy pop star (Pink) and a baby-boomer curmudgeon (Tim Robbins) saddled with a completely unrelated sub-plot. The three co-leads’ stories each come with equal amounts of pluses and minuses while also pointing out with crystalline clarity how infinitely hard it is to make light of such disparaging subject matter.
Although we’re given no history regarding his particular former peccadilloes, it’s made obvious that Mike (Robbins) is the reigning sage figure in his help group. Although wise in some areas he’s blind to the fact that his once-thieving, substance-addicted son (Patrick Fugit) is trying his level best to right past wrongs and work himself back into the family fold (which includes wife/mother Joely Richardson in a totally thankless role). Mike is all sweetness and light when it comes to the group but is a short-sighted bully when it applies to a son that inherited his own compulsive genes.
Mike is also the sponsor for Adam (Ruffalo), a “five-year-clean” former lothario whose dark brown peepers and aww-shucks demeanor totally wins over Phoebe (Paltrow), an all-American athletic type written as the perfect, infallible woman. Sexy, confident (but not annoyingly so), smart, funny, pretty and immensely patient, Phoebe also has a slightly-above-average sex-drive (which is completely in line with anyone her age and degree of physical fitness) and her assumed “keeper” status throws Adam for a huge loop. Adam desires Phoebe in the worst way but doesn’t want to blow it by turning her into just another inconsequential, throwaway conquest.
While tussling with his nagging demons, Adam is the Mike to Neil (Gad), a sweaty, pale, roly-poly sort who rubs up against women on the subway, wears mirrors on the tops of his shoes and indulges far too much while in company of just himself. At a meeting Neil encounters Dede (Pink), a beautician and the only female character in the film cursed with the alleged “affliction.” Dede — think early May — and Neil — solidly in frigid deep December — keep the film on a level that is most relatable to regular Joe and Jane audiences. Their respective obsessions are the closest to real world stuff as the movie ever gets.
The big dilemma with an issue such as sexual (insert your preferred afflictive term here) as it applies to film is that, while racy and always ripe for rubbernecking, it’s not something most people care to talk about or watch. Whether you agree or not with the medical establishment’s appraisal regarding its validity as a disease, no one can argue that it is an unacceptable form of social/mental behavior; meaning it lies outside the box of traditional norms and boundaries.
“Thanks for Sharing” (barely) addresses the symptoms and is oblivious to the (certain) multitude of causes — but does so in a commercially acceptable, often giggle-inducing way delivered by entertaining, fun-to-watch performers. The more-than-appropriately titled “Shame” delved into both cause and effect with far more insight and searing impact but made whoever watched it uncomfortable; which was probably the point and the principal reason for its existence. (Roadside Attractions)