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Film review: THANKS FOR SHARING, from Built For Speed

One of the cinematic surprises of the year is the thoughtful, low-key drama Thanks For Sharing which focuses on a subject that has gained more recognition in cinema recently: sex addiction. While the film does contain some sex and masturbation scenes, unlike the similarly-themed but very creepy Michael Fassbender film Shame, it won’t make audiences feel like they need a shower afterwards.

Thanks For Sharing depicts three men at various stages in their battle against sex addiction and the impact of each man’s addiction on his life. Mike (Tim Robbins) is a former sex addict and alcoholic who runs a support group for those similarly afflicted. While seemingly calm and avuncular to the group members, he’s actually full of barely suppressed contempt for other addicts including his estranged son Danny (Patrick Fugit).  He’s also racked with guilt for the destruction his addiction has wrought on his family. He sponsors successful corporate guy Adam (Mark Ruffalo) who has found that the thrilling highs of his addiction have distorted his view of human relationships and damaged his ability to connect emotionally with other people.  Adam, in-turn, sponsors aspiring doctor, Neil (Josh Gad) who desperately struggles with the discipline of abstinence and the myriad temptations a city like New York offers.  In addition to exploring the destructive outcomes of addiction, Thanks for Sharing also examines the way people’s attempts to cope with this illness produce additional problems such as an obsessive need to control every aspect of their life and an addiction to therapy itself.

For the most part, the name cast, which also includes Joely Richardson as Mike’s long suffering wife and Gwyneth Paltrow as Adam’s superficially confident new love interest, deliver impressively restrained, naturalistic and believable performances.  Ruffalo is particularly good giving Adam a surface decency and control but with palpable anxiety bubbling underneath.  Josh Gad is occasionally over-the-top, though, as he swings from sweaty, detestable up-skirting slob to quirky comedy relief to sympathetic lug.  He’s also possibly the least convincing doctor in cinema history.  A surprise inclusion in the cast is Alecia Moore aka singer Pink who acquits herself remarkably well in small but poignant role. While the performances are generally fine and the individual characters engrossing, the fact that the film darts back and forth between three story strands means that the drama is spread a little thin and the film doesn’t quite have the emotional impact it should.

A bonus, however, is the film’s surprisingly effective use of music which combines classical pieces as well as cleverly placed rock and pop songs. This may be the first time that Bach, Cheap Trick and Billy Bragg have appeared on the same soundtrack.

With its measured tone and sunlit suburban milieu, Thanks For Sharing occasionally resembles a midday tele-movie but its lack of spectacle is of little concern as fine performances and an intelligent script make it a quiet but potent piece of cinema.

Nick’s rating: Three and a half stars.

Classification: MA.

Director(s): Stuart Blumberg.

Release date: 3rd Oct 2013

Running time: 112 mins.

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