Marking the directorial debut of Oscar-nominated Stuart Blumberg (The Kids Are All Right), Thanks For Sharing is one of the funniest films of the year. It’s rare for a dramatic comedy to strike the balance so well between drama and comedy, and Blumberg walks the fine perfectly here, making one of the best debuts behind the camera in years.
Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, and Josh Gad star as a trio of sex addicts undergoing the twelve steps in the same group, and each leads their own interweaving trio of storylines, with excellent support coming in the form of Gwyneth Paltrow, Patrick Fugit, Joely Richardson, and Pink.
Adam (Ruffalo) is a five-years-clean sex addict, managing to keep his desires under control by understanding the things that set him off and removing those distractions – no TV, no computer, and a firm recognition that sobriety is a struggle taken one day at a time.
His sponsor, Mike (Robbins), is the leader of their twelve-step group; and it is there that Adam meets Neil (Gad), a young addict initially reluctant to participate, only present because he is court-mandated.
Having spent five successful years without having sex, Adam is pushed by Mike to start dating again, and thus enters the beautiful and charming Phoebe (Paltrow), who confesses up front that her last relationship ended because he was an alcoholic. She promised herself she would never date an addict again, and so Adam conspires to keep his own addiction a secret.
The three interlocking stories of Adam, Mike, and Neil are incredibly well-crafted. Each character deals with their addiction in slightly different ways, and each leads to fantastic moments of comedy, as well as much darker dramatic tones.
The handling of these darker moments is a real testament to Blumberg and his co-writer, Matt Winston, and it is in these that the film earns its five stars. Emily Meade gives a small but impressive performance as Adam’s ex-girlfriend, and the film is incredibly adept at deftly switching gears between comedy and drama, which is the true mark of a strong dramatic comedy.
We see all three of our trio of addicts at both their best and their worst, and this is one of the most significant things about the film – it shows recovery is not a simple, linear path. There are lapses and obstacles to be overcome, and that is precisely what the group is there for – support. We are given a look inside the strength of this support system, and the help it provides the people that go to keep living their lives, one day at a time.
Sex addiction is a subject very rarely tackled in cinema – the only other example I can think of is Clark Gregg’s adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s Choke. It is also a subject that lends itself well to humour, but it is a welcome surprise to see that Thanks For Sharing doesn’t just go for the easy jokes. It features some excellent light-hearted touches in the heat of the moment, but it is at its best when it frequently goes for the smarter comedy that itself is rarely seen on the big screen.
The subject of addiction is itself a contested one – there are many that sympathise with its sufferers, many that judge its sufferers, and many still that believe addiction does not even exist.
No matter your own opinion, Thanks For Sharing is a dramatic comedy that you can enjoy in its entirety. It’s this year’s Crazy, Stupid, Love., but with sex addiction rather than divorce at its heart. From start to finish, it is absolutely brilliant, with the three varying ages of its leading trio providing a unique outlook on the program and the nature of their addiction in each. Robbins is the seasoned veteran; Ruffalo is beginning a new stage in his life in starting to date Phoebe and returning to a healthy sex life; and Gad is the young man who slowly begins to realise that he really has a problem.
The pairing of Gad opposite Pink in their arc of the story is excellent, with Pink proving herself to be a very promising actress, and Gad especially showing how capable he is of both drama and comedy. His smaller role in Love and Other Drugs was excellent in showing off his comedic talents, but here he gets to flourish in the dramatic side too, giving an altogether new look at how terrific an actor he is on-screen.
And it is Ruffalo, as you might expect, that really steals the show. There are a few things that I think make an actor really worth his/her salt, and the ability to laugh convincingly is one of them. Ruffalo and Paltrow are the epitome of charming as their budding relationship blossoms, and it is a real beauty to watch.
Blumberg brings together one of the best casts of any dramatic comedy in recent memory, and it’s no surprise that the Oscar-nominated writer has not only returned with a fantastic script, but is also a marvel to watch as a director making his debut.
Thanks For Sharing is utterly charming, funny, sweet, and serious in all the right ways. It’s the feel-good film of the year that will leave you laughing right up to rolling credits, and leave you thinking about it for days to come. An absolute must-see.