Three recovering sex addicts – Adam (Mark Ruffalo), Mike (Tim Robbins) and Neil (Josh Gad) – negotiate the perils of their sobriety as life throws a series of challenges at them.
Remember Shame? Remember Michael Fassbender’s gripping performance as a man whose life was falling apart as he negotiated his sex addiction? Remember his electric gaze on the women – and men – he encountered, and how it was clear that he was compensating for some past trauma? Well, imagine now that Fassbender’s character has been sober for five years, and has somehow found his way into an odd romantic comedy about his demons, and there you have Thanks for Sharing.
A colleague mentioned that there are certain things that should not be addressed in romantic comedies, and sex addiction is one of those, and I would tend to agree with him. Addiction is rarely a laughing matter, as it tears apart the lives of the addicts, and those around them. In Thanks for Sharing, sex addiction is shown as a quirky character trait, and little more.
Mark Ruffalo has shown his strength in romantic comedies in the past – his turn in 13 Going On 30 was simply adorable – but it seems that he is a little out of his depth here. It is easy to buy Ruffalo as a man who has dealt with his demons and is a little gunshy about going back into the world that caused his addiction, but is not easy to believe that this mild mannered man was ever addicted to anything. It’s forgivable though, until Adam makes the acquaintance of Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), when they become an incredibly annoying and unlikeable couple. Both are fine on their own, but together… Ugh.
Tim Robbins plays the mentor character as Mike, but he is dealing with his own issues at home, namely a troubled and troublesome son. Robbins is warm and likeable, until he suddenly turns into the addict from hell. There is no middle ground for the character; he is either warm and kind or angry and nasty. Joely Richardson has very little to do as Mike’s wife, and Patrick Fugit is making a career playing addicts or former addicts. A shame, he had so much potential after Almost Famous.
The third couple is made up of Josh Gad as the addict who won’t admit he has a problem, and Alecia Moore (yes, Pink!) as Dede. To be fair to Moore, she actually gives a fairly strong performance, which is not hard as she is playing a character that feels pretty close to her own persona, but she does well. Josh Gad has a harder time as the lying addict, but he does OK until his character – like all the others in the film – abruptly does a 180 degree turn and suddenly changes.
Writer/director Stuart Blumberg previously brought us the mediocre The Kids Are Alright, and had a small role in Fight Club, and it seems as though the idea for Thanks for Sharing may have been very personal. It’s just a shame that the execution is messy, rambling, awkward and badly paced. Any one of the three stories could easily have been a stand alone film with depth and heart, but blending these characters worlds together just left the film a hot mess. By the time Ruffalo goes all Shame on us, and Gad makes jokes over the unconscious body of a girl who has overdosed, the audience is either too mortified, or too bored to care any more.
Thanks for Sharing could have been a gritty but heart warming look at the other side of addiction. It starts well enough, but quickly reveals itself as a badly paced, underdeveloped mess, populated with characters who make horrible decisions for no discernable reason and seem to thrive on passive aggression. Thanks for Sharing is ultimately a superficial mess that is dealt with in a shockingly clumsy manner.