Thanks for Sharing is one of those movies that’s marketed as a comedy-drama in which the comedy is markedly subservient to the drama. It’s also a film about which I can’t quite make up my mind. It has a few problems, and I can’t help but feel that any movie where I end up caring more about a pair of supporting characters has done something wrong. But I also know that it’s been several days since I saw the film and it’s still hovering in my mind. That’s clearly a sign that there’s something to this directorial debut from writer Stuart Blumberg (who co-wrote 2010’s The Kids Are All Right). If it’s not quite as worthwhile as it wants to be, it’s still OK.
The basics here involve a group of people in a 12-step, sex-addiction support group. The primary focus is on Adam (Mark Ruffalo) and his relationship with his sponsor, Mike (Tim Robbins), who also serves as the group’s leader. Off to the side — sort of — is Neil (Josh Gad), an ER doctor with porn issues and a creepy tendency to rub up against strangers, for whom Mike also serves as a sponsor. A little further off is newcomer Dede (pop singer Pink, under her real name Alecia Moore), who ends up connected to Neil. Much of the drama, however, comes from the effects of this addiction on those involved with Adam and Mike. (The Neil/Dede storyline is more compact, which might be why it works best for me.)
A large portion of the film involves the burgeoning relationship between Adam and a woman he meets at a party named Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow). This is hardly surprising, given that Adam is essentially the film’s main character. This is also one of the areas where I have issues with the film. It’s not that it’s dealing from a stacked deck (though it most certainly is), it’s that I never quite believe in them, nor do I find them particularly appealing or sympathetic. Too much about them feels like Rom-com Basic, and their romantic banter is frequently embarrassing in its sheer banality. (Do real couples talk like this? Maybe, but we don’t have to listen to it. It’s like being the only sober person in a roomful of drunks.) Their one worthwhile dialogue concerns the idea that each is the only person the other doesn’t hate — and while that may be true of Phoebe, who seems to have no other existence, it’s clearly not true of Adam.
The side story involving Mike’s strained relationship with his son (Patrick Fugit) and wife (Joely Richardson) is better achieved — at least till it erupts into the melodrama that’s been threatened throughout. Altogether more successful — in part because it illustrates the actual workings of a support network — are the scenes depicting Neil and Dede. These ring truer than the rest of the film. But the whole film has its merits — mostly in performances that are first-rate even when the material isn’t. Much the same was true of The Kids Are All Right, which shares other weaknesses with this — including the fact that all these characters are just a little too upscale for most of us to relate to. (The inclusion of Isiah Whitlock Jr. as a working-stiff addict doesn’t quite balance things out.) In the end, what we have is a good movie that misses greatness — and perhaps does so by straining too hard for significance. Rated R for language and some strong sexual content.
Starts Friday at Carolina Cinemas