Having previously gained some acclaim for his screenplays Keeping The Faith and The Kids Are All Right, Stuart Blumberg was bound to jump into the directing chair sooner than later and here is his debut Thanks For Sharing a somewhat semi-autobiographical tale regarding sex addiction in the city that never sleeps.
A stellar cast combine to create an entertaining comedy drama that focuses on the crippling nature of sexual addiction and how the mantra of one day at a time is important.
Adam (Mark Ruffalo) has been sober of sex for seven years. He is a well adjusted professional with a phone from the late 1990s to avoid the images of pornography so apparent and available in the social media, even when he is in hotel rooms on business he asks for the television to be removed from his room to save himself.
Adam meets Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), the girl of his dreams who is everything he imagines and wants to be with; yet his close group friend Mike (Tim Robbins) says he will have to come clean eventually about his addictive past, considering Phoebe discloses her ex was an alcoholic and she is recovering from breast cancer.
The contrasting storyline concerns a young doctor Neil (Josh Gad) who is suffering severely with his sexual addiction, it is affecting his performance at work where he is fired for putting a camera on his shoe so he can see up his bosses skirt. Neil needs help and starts taking the group therapy seriously with the introduction of Dede (Pink under her real name, Alecia Moore), a young female who lost her best friend after sleeping with her best friend's father.
Mike himself has a storyline with the return of his troubled son, Danny (Patrick Fugit) a junkie who used to steal from his home and they kicked out until he was clean. Danny comes home and both he and Mike start to see each other in a different light until old wounds start to resurface including Mike's own sexual and alcohol addiction.
The film in the first half is really entertaining with a breeziness of dialogue and delivery helped by the expert performances of the experienced actors; however in the second half the film slowly becomes a little bit too dramatic for its own good. A fault that could have been aimed at the same writer for his Keeping The Faith screenplay where the running time was too long and he was not too sure where to take it.
A fault to find with the film is that the ensemble is too many with female characters especially somewhat restricted by their roles as either faithful wife, trophy girlfriend and bad girl. At the start when Adam talks to Neil about not taking the subway (so he avoids grinding up against women) and get rid of his porn collection, you wish for the film to have a somewhat satiricial or perhaps critical eye on the proliferation of sexual images in the everyday media; after a break-up with Phoebe, Adam sees a picture of a runner in a magazine and immediately collates that image with Phoebe which throws him off the deep end.
When Adam does go dark, Ruffalo comes to the fore as a good actor but he is oddly shown up by Emily Meade in the role of Becky, a former conquest of Adam who has severe Daddy issues. Becky's issues are in sharp contrast to Adam who quickly reverts to his saintly role and there is always someone in a worse state than you. Becky is not aware of her problem and is probably reluctant to seek help due to the subsequent stigmatism by her peers, but maybe that is the message of the film, the help is available to those who need it and seek it.
The criticism of the ensemble comes to the fore in the problematic role of Tim Robbins' character Mike. Is he the father figure to Adam even though they are 10 years apart in age roughly and his back story is not really developed nor explored until he and Danny separate causing some wobbly camerawork when Mike sees some alcohol.
A better film would have been a bro-mance drama between Ruffalo and Gad, the age gap is wide enough for it to be a surrogate big brother role even a father figure role. Gad also has natural comic talents (fat man on a bike, fat man in leotards) and his charm is enthused by the chemistry with Moore in the significant role of Dede; Gad has the funniest lines and you wonder what sort of film it might have been if that editing process had occurred.
However, it is refreshing to see such an open and honest film in regards to the sensitive nature of sexual addiction. There are some obstacles and hoops the actors have to jump through, but it is a solid ensemble effort by all and one that does hold your attention in part due to the performances and not the direction.
Thanks For Sharing is out on Friday 4th October