When Adam (Mark Ruffalo) first tells Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow) that his 5-year sobriety medallion is for sex addiction, she's skeptical. "Isn't that something that guys just say when they get caught cheating?", she asks. It's a line that can sound like a laugh at the expense of people with problems like Adam's, and the trailers for Thanks For Sharing basically play it that way, one wacky speedbump in what ultimately appears to be a feel-good story of people finding balance in their lives. In the film itself, however, that moment is more serious: Thanks For Sharing portrays sex addiction as no different from any other addiction. Director / writer Stuart Blumberg adds a few laughs to keep the tone light, but there's a fine film for adult audiences in here that deserves a second look on home video.
After five years on the wagon, Adam is confident but resists encouragement by his sponsor, Mike (Tim Robbins), to get back out into the dating world...that is, until Phoebe walks into a party and he's instantly smitten. Phoebe tells him on their first date that she refuses to date any more addicts -- her last boyfriend was an alcoholic -- prompting Adam to keep his sobriety a secret. Meanwhile, Adam has also become a sponsor, for court-appointed attendee Neil (Josh Gad), who hits rock bottom and finally begins to take the program seriously when he's fired for filming up his boss' skirt. Neil's unprepared for the road to recovery, but he's joined by Dede (Alecia "P!nk" Moore), who attends the sex addiction meetings in addition to drug addiction. Finally, Mike's routine is upset by the sudden return of his delinquent son, Danny (Patrick Fugit), who claims to have kicked his own drug habit and is looking to make amends with both Mike and his mother, Katie (Joely Richardson).
The main weakness in Thanks For Sharing is Blumberg's desire to tell multiple simultaneous story threads. One person can only face so many temptations before their story feels one-note, but the consecutive dramatic arcs of the film's three major threads inevitably comes off as a "movie" contrivance. The ongoing struggle to maintain sobriety in and of itself presents a number of cliches as well -- if the characters encounter a major conflict, the resolution can end up feeling pat, but if their conflicts are not significant enough, the dramatic impact suffers. Blumberg wrestles with these issues and is not entirely successful, but if the viewer is willing to take some of these issues in stride, it's the middle of the film that ends up being the most effective.
Although the film contains a number of plot-based conflicts, the main source of drama in the film is simply the characters' attempts to stay sober. The threat of falling off the wagon hangs over every scene, whether it's the beautiful people walking down the street, commercials on TV or the internet, or even a suggestive word by the wrong person. There's a sense that maybe Blumberg chose to make the film about sex addiction instead of alcohol or drug addiction because the world we live in presents such an omnipresent aura of temptation. Blumberg is also quick to emphasize the dark side of the addiction, undercutting Phoebe's question to Adam. The scene that leads to Neil being fired from his job is profoundly uncomfortable, spiked with a stomach-churning level of embarrassment and shame, and Blumberg throws a disturbing fetish into another scene, highlighting the way the desire for another "hit" removes moral inhibitions.
Not that their work in Marvel's movies is less than legitimate, but it suddenly seems as if Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow are being overlooked by filmmakers making entertainment for adults. Both performers give natural, nuanced performances that hardly seem to require any effort, and they have exceptional on-screen chemistry -- when Phoebe first kisses Adam, it's almost overwhelmingly sexy, which is simultaneously appealing and troubling. Ruffalo also delivers in glimpses of Adam's dark side, giving off a despicable allure that perfectly summarizes the mental and emotional atmosphere of an addict feeding the habit. Patrick Fugit makes the most of his small and predictable part, acting circles Tim Robbins (adequate, but complacent) in several painful confrontations. Finally, I even have to give some props to Josh Gad. I've never been a fan of him, and his one-liners here are still more grating than funny, but his first real confession is full of genuine, heartfelt regret.
By virtue of having an ensemble cast (or perhaps, as punishment), Thanks For Sharing is given the "boxes" design treatment on Blu-Ray, with cast photos paired up with teal and yellow rectangles. Underwhelming, although the theatrical posters weren't any more inspired. The eco-friendly Blu-Ray case housing the disc and digital copy code slides into an identical cardboard slipcover.
The Video and Audio
Thanks For Sharing was shot on digital, and this 1.78:1 1080p AVC presentation has the positives and negatives one expects from a digital production. On the plus side, color and detail are both bright and crisp, offering a decidedly sharp and well-saturated look at New York City. The film is generally brightly and cleanly lit, without much stylization, and so the presentation is very consistent. Minor negatives include black crush, and two scenes set in near darkness, one with Adam and Phoebe, and one with Mike and Danny, which offer some minor but noticeable banding and noise, respectively.
Thanks For Sharing is yet another dialogue-heavy film without much for a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track to chew on, although, like the cinematography, this is especially no-frills. When there is something happening, such as the way background noise suddenly vanishes when Adam and Phoebe first kiss, or when the pulsating groove of an experimental dance club takes over, the track shows its proficiency. Otherwise, it's smooth sailing with clean and crisp dialogue, and nicely rendered music which spreads to the rear channels. A Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing, and English and Spanish subtitles are also included.
First up is an audio commentary with director / writer Stuart Blumberg and co-writer Matt Winston. Sadly, Blumberg and Winston aren't great commentators, frequently falling into the trap of describing what's happening on screen with little additional information.
A trio of video features kick off with "One Step At a Time: Making Thanks For Sharing" (15:19). Although this is a conventional behind-the-scenes featurette, and a little on the bland side, it's a better overview of the production and the ideas behind the script than the commentary. A reel of deleted and extended scenes (9:49) isn't particular remarkable (most of the material is still in the finished film), but fans of Carol Kane and Michaela Watkins may enjoy seeing a little more of both actors. Outtakes (2:39) also show a bit more of the cast's chemistry.
Trailers for Friends With Kids, I Love You Phillip Morris, Much Ado About Nothing, and Girl Most Likely play before the main menu. No trailer for Thanks For Sharing is included. All the video extras are presented in HD.
For adult audiences starved for more serious entertainment, Thanks For Sharing tackles the tough topic of addiction and does a decent job, depicting the day-to-day effort required to overcome the disease, even if the script does resort to a few conventional shortcuts. A/V is fine, but the extras are underwhelming -- the disc will make a worthy rental.
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