An addiction is a serious subject no matter how you look at it, be it drugs, alcohol, sex – you name it. Addictions are diseases that consume people’s lives and turn them into something they may not even want to be, as psychological impulses cloud their decision making process as if the devil on their shoulder was the only person guiding them. Sexual addiction comes with an added stigma though, as some people think it’s just a convenient excuse for sleazeballs to seem more respectable (the whole Tiger Woods scenario), which creates tricky lands to traverse as a film topic. Make it too funny, and you’re treating sexual addiction as the myth some people believe it to be.
Thanks For Sharing rightfully shows sexual addiction in a light that’s both revealing and a tad sympathetic though, choosing to address the issues of sexual addiction while diving into the soul of each addict, delivering human characters played by a star-studded cast of actors. Our story may not have been consistently engaging or gripping, but director Stuart Blumberg absolutely does justice to such a tricky topic, and makes it strangely enjoyable.
Following the tale of three recovering sex addicts all in different stages of the program, Thanks For Sharing depicts their romantic struggles and attempts to remain “sober,” while showing the seriousness of such a disease. Adam (Mark Ruffalo) has been sober for five years, making the program his life, and things are finally starting to look up when he meets the beautiful Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow). Mike (Tim Robbins) has been sober for an extremely long time, but fears his son’s attempts at white knuckling his recovery may not be working. Neil (Josh Gad) is the newest one to the program, court ordered because of his inappropriate touching, and struggles to take the steps seriously. Together, these three try to lean on one another for support, bringing other group members into the fold, as life throws hurdle after hurdle in their way. Can Adam find love again? Can Mike trust his son? Will Neil accept recovery? Or will they all fall prey to their addictions, losing control one last time.
Thanks For Sharing doesn’t only let us into the lives of sex addicts though. Our characters make proper statements about the “Anonymous” program itself and all that it does for its members. Unfortunately, I think some people see these meetings as weakness or failure, but our actors are able to convey the family and communal feeling that really exists. Josh Gad’s character jokes early in the film that he’s only attending meetings for the free bagels, using comedy as a defense mechanism, but the countless hours of work it takes to achieve sobriety soon becomes apparent. Blumberg and co-writer Matt Winston pay proper tribute to those addicts content on turning their lives around, and the gruelling process that follows.
For the romantic set-ups/family drama that drove our characters though, I found nothing exceptionally groundbreaking or gripping, as Thanks For Sharing follows a very obvious road. The relationship between Tim Robbins’ leader character Mike and his 8 month clean son (played by Patrick Fugit) highlights the uncertainty created when you’re a habitual user who takes and takes, but Mike’s irrationality, being a previous user himself, and his lack of compassion created barrier between his character and the audience. How a father could be so cold towards his son, knowing the hardships he’s faced/still facing, flabbergasted me – but that’s the dramatic tension that the film chooses to use.
On the flip side, Josh Gad has phenomenal chemistry with Alecia Moore (aka pop artist Pink), showing the strength, power, and reward that comes out of being a group member. Gad shines as a self-destructive addict who wants to get better but refuses to do anything about it initially, as his repeated mis-cues cause Mike and Adam to question both commitment and will-power. Gad delivers laughs while messing about, but once he gets serious, his character Neil is a source of inspiration and intrigue, aided by a serious and emotional turn from Pink. These two talents shined brightest throughout Thanks For Sharing, making for the most rewarding relationship amidst a sometimes overly-complicated story.
That’s not to say Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow get lost in the mix, as the stunningly gorgeous Paltrow treats viewers to a sultry strip-tease, but Thanks For Sharing is an unbalanced story with a heartily strong message – one that’s very watchable thanks to some dynamite performances from a star-studded cast. It’s a serious look into the lives of addicts, but also one that provides funny moments – momentary releases from Blumberg’s tonally shifting film. While not the most prolific achievement, Thanks For Sharing is still a warm and moving enough film to warrant a redeeming viewing experience.
While not a tremendously addicting watch, there are enough passionate performances in Thanks For Sharing to provide an enlightening look into such a serious topic.