THANKS FOR SHARING is another in a long line of movies about addicts and the effects of the addiction on family & friends. However, because alcohol and drug addiction has been presented over and over and over…this film is about sex addiction. That adds an element of titillation that is missing from movies about alcoholics!
If my tone seems a bit dismissive, it’s because THANKS FOR SHARING is a very skin-deep movie that mostly pretends to have something deep or meaningful to say. It’s a breezy drama/comedy about a serious and damaging topic. The movie is not without value or interest…not at all. But I want to get out of the way right at the beginning that for all it accomplishes, one thing it does NOT do is really make me understand much about sex addiction. As one character in the movie says (and I’m paraphrasing): “Is sex addiction a real thing? I thought it was what husbands used as an excuse when they get caught cheating.” While I’d like to think my attitude was a bit more understanding, this is a subject that is a bit fuzzy to me. Drugs/alcohol I can comprehend. An alcoholic drinking a lot is bad because they damage their health and do dangerous things. A sex addict does WHAT exactly?
Anyway, THANKS FOR SHARING is more of a relationship movie. We have our lead character, Mark Ruffalo, a recovering sex addict (5 years sober) who has spent a sexless existence with no home access to the internet, no TV and full of little tricks to help him focus on his “sobriety.” Now he’s interested in venturing into the dating world again, and he meets Gwyneth Paltrow, a cancer survivor who has been burned by previous relationships with addicts. The two spend a lot of time smiling at each other and laughing at each other’s bad jokes and terrible repartee. They MUST be in love, because if not, they’d find each other insufferable. Both actors can be VERY charming, but somehow they don’t work well together. Ruffalo is much better in his NON Paltrow scenes, particularly towards the end, when his character takes a dramatic turn.
Tim Robbins plays the nominal “leader” of the support group. An addict himself, he appears to be addicted to providing support. He is full of pithy sayings and knows just the right times to put arms around shoulders in an encouraging way. In many ways, he is deeply unlikable because he never really shows his real self. Yes, he helps the addicts and that’s a good thing. But he is so smug and self-satisfied, with his self-loathing just beneath the surface. He relates to the addicts because he is superior to them. But his wife (Joely Richardson) is someone he can barely relate to because he carries the guilt over the horrible things he’s done to her during his time of no sobriety. We never get any specifics, but he clearly resents HER for the things she knows about him. This relationship and Robbins’ character are far more interesting. And when their adult son (Patrick Fugit) a drug addict and ex-con, comes home seemingly to make amends, some very difficult and bristly old business comes up. It’s a bit clichéd, all of it…but this portion of the movie has the most oomph.
For decent comic relief we’ve got Josh Gad (from Broadway’s BOOK OF MORMON) as a newly recovering addict and his growing friendship with fellow addict Alecia Moore (better known as the singer Pink). They establish an easy rapport and Gad has nice comic timing and Moore is nearly his equal. Their growing relationship, although a little hard to swallow, is also far more interesting than Ruffalo and Paltrow.
The trailers for this movie (and the poster) make it seem like this is a comedy, with some dramatic undertones. That is HUGELY misleading. The laughs are mild and infrequent. It’s more of a drama about some people who crack a lot of jokes. It is never dull, even as most plot points play out so predictably. Movies about addiction are a lot like sports movies…the path is well-worn and familiar. Sure, they may occasionally drift off to look at something different, but they always return to the path. THANKS FOR SHARING is very much like that. It felt familiar and comfortable, but a bit threadbare and well-worn too. If a comfort drama about sex addicts sounds good, by all means check out the film.