Thanks for Sharing (★★★)

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thanks_for_sharing_ver2Most people wouldn’t expect a touching dramedy about sex addiction to be the directorial debut of Stuart Blumberg, the co-writer of The Girl Next Door and The Kids Are All Right (plus the writer of Keeping The Faith), but go figure…Blumberg is more than up to the challenge. Thanks for Sharing is no Shame, but then again, it’s not supposed to be. This is a much more lighthearted look at addiction, though hardly one without an edge. Blumberg certainly has an ace up his sleeve in the casting of Mark Ruffalo as the lead. Ruffalo is such a likable actor, having him play a sex addict works in a very interesting way. It’s actually a pretty solid cast in total, with Ruffalo getting to play off of Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins, and Josh Gad, to name a few. The tone can be a little inconsistent at times but things build to a very satisfying climax, no pun intended. Thanks for Sharing isn’t an awards contender or anything of the sort, but it’s an appealing dramedy that succeeds far more often than it fails. I’m not shouting from the rooftops about this flick, but I am recommending it as a worthwhile new indie release.

On the surface, you’d never peg Adam (Ruffalo) as anything but the charming environmental consultant that he is. He has all the makings of a standard issue overachiever. The thing is, he’s also a recovering sex addict. He attends meetings with his friend and sponsor Mike (Robbins) while trying to keep a new entry into the program named Neil (Gad) on the right path. Complications are about to arise though, mainly in the form of Phoebe (Paltrow), the first woman Adam is interested in pursuing a relationship with in some time. While he worries about revealing his addiction to her as well as what a sexual relationship might bring out in him, we see Mike’s complicated relationship with his wife Katie (Joely Richardson) and estranged son Danny (Patrick Fugit). As for Neil, he’s still headed towards rock bottom, but a bond with an even newer member of the program named Dede (Alicia Moore aka Pink) offers hope for him. Everyone will have their successes and failures here over the course of the film, though the ending is perhaps more upbeat than you’d ultimately expect it to be. Once again, this isn’t Shame. This is more of a celebration of overcoming adversity than a deep look at addiction.

thanks-for-sharing-3Mark Ruffalo is very good here, using his likability to essay one of his more complicated characters to date. It’s impossible not to have compassion for Ruffalo, so that feeds over to his character. You root for him to succeed, even when it becomes a bit harder to do. He’s not awards worthy or anything like that, but this is a real nice turn for him. Ruffalo fares the best in terms of how the script treats the cast, though Tim Robbins comes in second. His character has a lot going on, though sometimes the script takes the quick route with his issues. Robbins definitely has more to do here than he’s had in a little bit. Josh Gad starts out annoying like usual, but he wins you over by the end. The same goes for Alicia Moore, who shows she’s more than just the singer Pink. As for Gwyneth Paltrow, she doesn’t get enough time on screen to make a big impact, but she plays off of Ruffalo well in the lighter scenes. Both Patrick Fugit and Joely Richardson are under used, but effective. The rest of the supporting cast includes Carol Kane, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and others, but this is really about Ruffalo.

The biggest thing I took away from Stuart Blumberg’s work here is that he really cares about his characters. The script he co-wrote with Matt Winston is on par with the work he’s done to date, but Blumberg shows an aptitude behind the camera as well (especially in terms of showing Adam’s mental state on the streets of Manhattan). His direction could certainly be better, but it’s a solid debut, buoyed by his attention paid to the characters. You get the sense that he wants these flawed people to make a better life for themselves, even if he doesn’t let them off the hook. I’m very eager to see Blumberg continue to grow as a filmmaker. He’s got a potentially strong directorial career beginning.

Overall, Thanks for Sharing has an uneven tone that prevents it from being something great, but it’s still an entertaining dramedy. Especially for Ruffalo’s performance, this is a very solid indie flick that I have no trouble recommending. I didn’t love the movie, but I did like it a lot. It’s a film well worth checking out. As long as you don’t expect a masterpiece, you’re likely to come away pleased by this one.

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!