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'Thanks' shares a complicated perspective of addiction

By Carly Keyes, Daily Arts Writer
Published September 27, 2013

Sex addiction, purportedly the most misunderstood of all addictions, is marketed as just an excuse that men or women cling to when they get caught cheating by their partner.

But “Thanks for Sharing,” in an accurate and entertaining balance of gravity and light-hearted comic relief, destigmatizes the concept and reveals the truth about the disease: It is more than simply a lack of self-control or a collection of nefarious life decisions of one’s own volition. Even further, this vision illuminates and dissipates the mystery of the 12-step program for those who have no familiarity.

For a sex addict, “working” a successful 12-step program means abstaining from “acting out” behaviors such as chronic masturbation and porn, inappropriate touching that violates another’s personal boundaries, voyeurism, exhibitionism, having multiple partners and relations with prostitutes — anything that constitutes a sexual act outside of a committed relationship.

Alarmingly depicted both audibly and visually, this film from Academy Award-nominated writer Stuart Blumberg (“The Kids Are All Right”), in his directorial debut, reveals the major challenge posed by sex addiction.

The solution is clear for alcoholics: Don’t drink. But sex addicts can still have sex as long as it’s functional, which is much harder to do — like “quitting crack with the pipe still attached.”

So when Adam (Mark Ruffalo, “The Avengers”), a sex addict celebrating five years of sobriety, begins dating Phoebe (Gwenyth Paltrow, “Iron Man 3”), he must abide by this functional medium — a healthy balance of sexual expression and tameness while winning Phoebe’s trust: She “promised herself that she’d never date another addict.”

Tim Robbins (“Green Lantern”) plays Adam’s sponsor and an ex-addict of drugs and alcohol. In a devastating sub-plot, his marriage to Katie (Joely Richardson, “Red Lights”) and relationship with his newly sober son, Danny (Patrick Fugit, “We Bought a Zoo”), becomes jeopardized when his amicability and strict availability for his sponsees trumps his dedication to his role as husband and father.

Another story weaves itself into the narrative, when Neil (Josh Gad, “The Internship”), Adam’s sponsee, loses his job as a doctor due to his acting out. He finds an ally in Dede (Alecia Moore, a.k.a. pop princess Pink, “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked”), a young woman with her own tragically troubled indiscretions, who, for the first time in her life, learns to be “just friends” with a man.

The stories crash together in a beautiful mess of conflict — demonstrating how connected people are in their struggles. And while the ones we love the most we tend to hurt the most, they can also be our greatest source of strength and empathy.

It’s impossible to compare the performances as far as authenticity, emotional depth and overall quality because they’re all so damn good — the “standout” is the congregation of talented and dedicated actors, who obviously did much preparation to immerse themselves in the endlessly complicated and confusing mental jungle that is addiction.

To any audience member who knows someone who struggles with this disease in any way, shape or form — or personally endures the daily temptations and perpetual battle with a ball and chain that, if reattached, steals their mental, emotional and potentially physical freedom: Prepare for waterworks.


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