Thanks for Sharing revolves around three New Yorkers undergoing a “12-step process”-style program to keep their sex addiction under control: Adam (Mark Ruffalo), a handsome and successful middle-aged environmental consultant who is five years clean; Mike (Tim Robbins), an older architectural designer who’s been married to his high school sweetheart for over three decades (and has kept sober for the past 15 years); and Neil (Josh Gad), a young and socially-aloof E.R. doctor who’s under court-order to complete the recovery program.
Adam is confronted with a new set of emotional hurdles to jump over, after he decides to pursue a relationship with a (seemingly…) well-adjusted woman named Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow). Meanwhile, Mike’s serene day-to-day lifestyle ends up being interrupted when his estranged son (Patrick Fugit) returns home, claiming to have beaten his own substance addiction issues and wanting to mend fences with his parents. Lastly, a development at work forces Neil to confront the reality of his problems, but he finds a helpful ally in fellow recovering sex addict Dede (Alecia Moore, a.k.a. the singer/songwriter Pink).
Thanks for Sharing premiered back at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, yet the movie is only now making its way into theaters, close to a year later. That delay may have resulted from distributor Lionsgate recognizing that the addiction dramedy – the directorial debut for Oscar-nominated screenwriter Stuart Blumberg (The Kids Are All Right) – isn’t all that cohesive or revolutionary (when it comes to providing new insight on its subject matter) – and thus, probably won’t generate serious awards season buzz. Nevertheless, the film is an overall solid work of adult storytelling that ultimately confronts the realities of addiction (not to mention, addictive lifestyle choices) with emotional clarity and moral responsibility.
There are times during the first half of the film when Thanks for Sharing threatens to turn into “First World Problems: The Movie,” in large part because Blumberg and his co-writer (longtime character actor Matt Winston) over-play Gad’s struggles for easy comic effect. More importantly, they rely too heavily on the kind of standard (read: cheap) rom-com conventions that are too often found in movies about… well… white yuppies who live in a big American city (if we’re being brutally honest). Fortunately, sympathetic performances from the ensemble cast help to carry the film through these weak spots and enable the second half of the story (when things get heavy) to have a genuine emotional impact.
Mike’s storyline is the weakest of the three narrative threads, partly because it (multiple times) begins to wander in a more intriguing direction; but, instead, that storyline ultimately suffers from larger plot contrivances that make the eventual payoff to the father-son drama feel too emotionally manipulative. By comparison, the Adam/Phoebe thread starts out clunky (since Paltrow and Ruffalo don’t have strong chemistry), but this problem eventually plays to the story’s advantage, in that it leads to interesting questions about why certain types of habitual (read: “addictive”) behavior are more socially acceptable than others. In addition, the script doesn’t let the characters off the hook for their self-centered muck-ups in the pursuit of a relationship.
Neil’s arc in the most clearly defined among the film’s three protagonists (he’s also the most empathetic of the male leads), but Gad deserves credit for turning in a performance that shifts easily from likable, uncomfortably funny and even heart-wrenching when the narrative calls for it. Similarly, Moore doesn’t at all embarrass herself in the role of Dede and her work here suggests that she might be the rare pop singer who could actually have a good screen career (if she wants one). Lastly, while their appearances are brief, supporting players like Isiah Whitlock Jr. (The Wire), Carol Kane (The Princess Bride) and Emily Meade (Trespass) each provide some needed emotional thunder during their cameos.
Thanks for Sharing, in case it wasn’t clear already, is very much a movie where the pure technical aspects of the filmmaking are a secondary concern to the writing and acting (which makes sense, given Blumberg and Winston’s past experience). Still, there are scenes that allow cinematographer Yaron Orbach (Our Idiot Brother) and editor Anne McCabe (Adventureland) to infuse the proceedings with more of a cinematic flare (see: when Neil and Adam must resist temptation at every turn in crowded Manhattan). One last thing: the film might’ve been better had Blumberg collaborated again with a woman storyteller (like he did with writer/director Lisa Cholodenko for The Kids Are All Right), seeing how story beats involving the female characters often feel like they’re being told from a strictly male perspective.
Nitpicks aside, the good elements outweigh the bad in Thanks for Sharing and the final result is a commendable examination of addiction, sex and the nature of grown-up relationships (among other issues that are rarely black and white). It’s not necessarily a film that demands to be seen in theaters, but you shouldn’t regret paying the ticket price if you decide to check it out (before it hits the home video market, that is).
Thanks for Sharing is now playing in limited theatrical release. It is 112 minutes long and is Rated R for language and some strong sexual content.