TIFF '12: Recovery Is The Watchword In 'Thanks For Sharing'
[Monkey See will be at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) through the middle of this week. We'll be bringing you our takes on films both large and small, from people both well-known and not.]
I wasn't sure what to expect from Thanks For Sharing. The director and co-writer, Stuart Blumberg, co-wrote The Kids Are All Right, a film I found good but slow, and while I like some of the actors a great deal (Mark Ruffalo in particular), I have mixed feelings about others (Gwyneth Paltrow in particular). I also knew it was a story about sex addicts in a support group, which makes it (1) a story about addicts and (2) a story about a support group, and both of those things can be tricky.
I was pleasantly surprised. It's essentially a three-story picture: Ruffalo is an addict with five years of "sexual sobriety," as they call it, whose first prospect for a good new relationship is with Gwyneth Paltrow, so he's not doing too badly. (Sex isn't off-limits for addicts, by the way, as this film presents them, just compulsive sexual behaviors, basically.) Tim Robbins plays the group's papa bear of sorts, who has many years clean, but has a rocky relationship with his son (Patrick Fugit), whose particular addiction has been drugs rather than sex. (Most of the sex addicts in the group, it appears, have also dealt with substance abuse.) And in what may have emerged as my favorite story, Josh Gad (The Book Of Mormon) plays a brand new group participant, a doctor who's there on the order of the court that busted him for rubbing up against women on the subway. (Ew.) He quickly befriends another new participant, who is delightfully played by Pink — yes, Pink, the singer.
It's your basic "people dealing with their complicated emotional baggage by talking to each other a lot" story, and that means that it rests on the actors and how interesting their relationships are. The Ruffalo/Paltrow story has a few bumpy spots at first — they drop in the fact that she's a cancer survivor, but don't do a lot with it, which makes it feel a little like emotional button-pushing — but they make believable both the fact that he's sincerely trying to be a good prospect and the fact that she's enormously reluctant to enter into a situation that's so fraught. After all, as she points out to him, they've just met. Why do something that's so complicated already?
The Robbins/Fugit story goes in a few interesting directions, and the script takes certain things that are presented as positive attributes in Robbins' character as the sage of the group and inverts them to explain how they might be hard on his family.
But I think the most pleasant surprise is the friendship between the characters played by Josh Gad and Pink. This is the story that underscores the importance of giving a rip about someone besides yourself if you're ever going to recover from anything. At first, the Gad character is so sketchy (subway groper, again, ew) that it seems like he might be irredeemable, but there's a lot of ground to cover — as there is for all these characters.
As was the case with The Kids Are All Right, it's a very talky movie, very interested in everybody discussing their feelings. That's not up every moviegoer's alley, so you might find it a little frustrating. But I found this one, more than that one, to be capable of pulling back and getting some perspective, and particularly capable of showing some sympathy for all its characters.
Thanks For Sharing does not yet have a U.S. release date.