Thanks for Sharing, a wobbly comedy-drama about sex addicts, has the unfortunate timing of arriving after Steve McQueen’s searing Shame, which explored the subject seriously and without compromise, and next week’s Don Jon, in which director Joseph Gordon-Levitt mines a similar theme with sharp humor and intelligence. By comparison, director Stuart Blumberg’s movie, which features a surprisingly starry cast, comes off as superficial and trite.
Lazy, too. The script, which Blumberg co-wrote with Matt Winston, follows three storylines centering on people who attend support meetings: Adam (Mark Ruffalo) is going on five years sober after having led a life of constant promiscuity and masturbation (to avoid temptation, he doesn’t own a computer or television set and still uses an old-fashioned flip-cellphone). His sponsor Mike (Tim Robbins), is a recovering alcoholic trying to reconcile with his estranged son Danny (Patrick Fugit), a former drug addict who suddenly shows up at their home one day, claiming he’s clean.
Most contrived of all is Neil (Josh Gad), a rotund doctor whose compulsive libido gets him fired, but he still can’t quit consuming porno. Nothing about the character is remotely believable — Neil behaves more like a frat boy than a grown-up, and his personality is grating instead of funny. He’s the kind of guy you’d cross the street to avoid.
Thanks for Sharing asks what happens when Adam meets a single young woman named Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow) who falls instantly in love with him but has one condition: She doesn’t date addicts, because her last boyfriend was an alcoholic, and she doesn’t want to put herself through that again. Phoebe is so thinly written that all we know about her is that she’s athletic and she likes to have sex. The movie requires her and Adam to fall in love over the course of a single conversation, but the film doesn’t let us hear it, choosing to play a romantic pop song over the moment instead. They are such an unconvincing couple, you couldn’t care less whether or not they stay together.
The same goes for Neil’s unlikely friendship-turned-romance with Dede (Alecia Moore, better known as pop singer Pink), another sexual compulsive who works at a beauty salon and realizes she may have found a soulmate in the unkempt slob. Thanks for Sharing alternates between scenes of low-brow comedy (including that old standby, a gross-out puke joke) and moments of would-be drama, such as a hospital scene that ends with everyone breaking down in tears and apologizing. The movie is simplistic and uninvolving, treating its characters’ afflictions with all the complexity of an episode of Modern Family. It’s also the kind of lazy picture that pretends even the worst sorts of ills can be cured with a hug and a smile.
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Gwyneth Paltrow, Josh Gad, Joely Richardson, Patrick Fugit, Alecia Moore, Carol Kane.
Director: Stuart Blumberg.
Screenwriters: Stuart Blumberg, Matt Winston.
Producers: Miranda de Pencier, David Koplan, Bill Migliore.
A Roadside Attractions release. Running time: 112 minutes. Vulgar language, sexual situations, adult themes. OPens Friday Sept. 20 at area theaters.