The ‘romantic dramedy’ is a concept that continues to elude many Hollywood filmmakers and screenwriters, despite its seemingly self-explanatory nature. A ‘rom-drom,’ as it’s known to some overeager cinephiles, should feature aspects of romance, drama and comedy. That’s the basic explanation, and the one that writer-director Stuart Blumberg applies to Thanks for Sharing, a rom-drom that tackles the tricky subject of sex addiction.
Unfortunately for Blumberg, and for Thanks for Sharing, that basic explanation doesn’t cut it for a movie with a 113-minute runtime. To make an enjoyable, coherent, feature-length film that traverses romance, drama and comedy, what’s utterly essential is a story that blends all three together. It’s not enough to merely toss the genres up onto the screen. That’s what Thanks for Sharing is missing, and that’s why it doesn’t work. For all its lofty goals and fine actors, the film never builds the strong, fluent narrative it needs to reconcile its genres. Part of the problem is the film’s messy, three-fold narrative, which unevenly distributes dramatic and comedic between three leading men.
Adam (Mark Ruffalo) is a sex addict who has been recovering through a twelve-step program for five years. His intense concentration on getting better has consumed his life so, when Adam meets the beautiful but troubled Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), re-evaluating his priorities poses serious problems. Meanwhile, Mike (Tim Robbins), Adam’s sponsor, has been sober for many years but finds that there are still skeletons in his closet to face when his addict son (Patrick Fugit) comes home to make amends after years of lying and stealing to fund his drug habit. Finally, Neil (Josh Gad), an out-of-control sex addict, enters the program and struggles to commit to its rigorous guidelines, eventually finding a shoulder to lean on in the form of fellow newcomer Dede (Alecia Moore).
So many actors feature into Thanks for Sharing that sometimes it’s unclear whose story is more important. What is clear is that for every pained romantic glance between Adam and Phoebe, and for every tense stand-off between Mike and his son, Blumberg and co-writer Matt Winston fall back on Neil’s story as comic relief. His story takes a dramatic backseat to the others, which feels rather unfair given how much Gad commits to the role. Out of all of the actors in Thanks for Sharing, Gad gives the most honest and human performance. An actor with his talent deserves to be more than a dancing monkey, especially in a film that ostensibly aims to address a problem as serious as sex addiction.
No one is completely terrible in Thanks for Sharing, though only a few actors stand out. Robbins turns in a powerful performance as a man who holds his demons close to the chest, and he’s emotive enough to make revelations about Mike late into the film feel entirely organic. Moore, best known for her singing as superstar P!nk, proves herself to be a surprisingly capable and charismatic actress, lending Dede a sincerity that makes her scenes with Gad the film’s best. And Paltrow is dazzling as always, though Blumberg treats her too much like a goddess for a film that is meant to explore the more troubling consequences of human sexuality. The few hints we get that her character is not perfect are pushed into the background in favor of shots that ogle the actress in skimpy lingerie.
Thinking about Thanks for Sharing as a failed experiment in genre-blending, it would be easy to dismiss the film as a waste of time. However, Blumberg’s intentions are good. Few mainstream movies have been so frank about sex addiction (Steve McQueen’s Shame is a far superior but graphic and unapproachable film about the same subject), so Thanks for Sharing deserves some credit for pushing to show the various tolls that the addiction can take on victims’ lives. The film’s ultimate folly is in its tonally haphazard construction. Failing to balance drama and comedy, Thanks for Sharing instead occupies a murky, uncomfortable gray zone between the two, wherein it’s unclear whether scenes are intended to be earnest or simply amusing. As a result, they’re neither.
Lionsgate gave Thanks for Sharing a top-of-the-line Blu-Ray transfer, so the film looks great. Presented in 1080p High Definition, the city setting is suitably bustling and alive, while colors pop in all the right places. Thanks for Sharing isn’t a movie that many will seek out for that just-a-little-better picture quality boost, but there are no issues with the Blu-Ray for those who are willing to shell out the extra few bucks.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Track is mostly sufficient to make dialogue crisp and clear, though a few lines in the film sound a little muffled at times. It’s not a huge issue for the film, as no shortcomings with the audio make the story or dialogue unclear.
The Blu-Ray for Thanks for Sharing comes with a few special features, including:
- Deleted/Extended Scenes
- “One Step at a Time: Making Thanks for Sharing“
- Gag Reel
- Commentary with Writer/Director Stuart Blumberg and Writer Matt Winston
The deleted/extended scenes are quite funny, particularly the ones involving Gad. The finished film feels overlong at almost two hours, so it’s easy to see why a lot of the bonus scenes got trimmed. One extended dinner conversation between Ruffalo and Paltrow is more tedious than funny, but the rest of the extra scenes are surprisingly good. An exchange from the trailer between Gad’s character and his domineering mother (Carol Kane) didn’t make the final cut, but anyone confused by its absence will find the scene in its entirety mixed in with the extras.
Clocking in at fifteen minutes, “One Step at a Time” is the only featurette on the disc, so all manner of actors and producers, in addition to the film’s writers and director, show up to give their two cents about Thanks for Sharing. Given the film’s problems with structure and story, it’s interesting to watch countless individuals rave about Blumberg’s vision and talent, and it’s a little saddening that the director’s obvious determination to tell a complex and funny story about sex addiction didn’t result in a terrific film.
The very short gag reel offers a few goofy takes, nothing truly gut-busting but a small amount of funny dialogue fumbles. If you like watching professional actors look ridiculous, it’s worth a watch.
Finally, the commentary by Blumberg and co-writer Matt Winston is earnest, if skin-deep. The pair narrate the film as it unfolds but never really dig into the themes of Thanks for Sharing‘s story. If you’re a huge fan of the film eager for any elaboration on how Blumberg and Winston laid out their story, the commentary may prove interesting, but, like the movie, I can’t really recommend it.
Thanks for Sharing attempts to combine drama and comedy in order to address the decidedly serious subject of sex addiction. Unfortunately, the film’s scattered story prevents it from ever succeeding in either genre.
Admirable in ambition but painfully muddled in execution, Thanks for Sharing lacks both a consistent tone and a script strong enough to hold its ensemble together.