"Thanks for Sharing" is a bit like the recovery scene it digs into — filled with intoxicating highs and dispiriting lows.
The new romantic drama is about the rocky road of love for sex addicts trying to 12-step the straight and narrow. It has an enviable group of actors doing the sharing in Tim Robbins, Mark Ruffalo, "Book of Mormon's" Josh Gad and Alecia Moore, a.k.a. Pink, the rocker making an especially engaging acting debut.
The world outside is equally well populated by Gwyneth Paltrow, Joely Richardson and Patrick Fugit. The topic itself couldn't be more timely.
The film marks Stuart Blumberg's first go in the director's chair and he proves to have a light touch that works better with the actors than the issues. He was one of the writers behind "The Kids Are All Right," nominated for an Oscar in 2011 for the agile way it brokered blended family relations. So it's something of a surprise that the script is "Thanks for Sharing's" weakest link.
Blumberg co-wrote the film with actor Matt Winston, and while they certainly cover the difficulties inherent in the addiction-fighting scene, the script struggles to keep its three central story lines under control. Like someone asked to choose a favorite child, they can't decide.
For a while it seems the addict we'll follow most closely is Adam (Ruffalo). He's a jet-setting environmental consultant, a nicely ironic job title since Adam must control everything in his environment to control his urges.
Then there is Mike (Robbins), who runs the recovery group. He's a tough-love kind of guy, with a long-suffering wife (Richardson) and an estranged, drug-addicted son (Fugit). When it comes to the program, he definitely works it. All. The. Time. It causes issues at home.
Mike's also a master of AA speak, and on that front he's got a friend in Robbins. The actor delivers lines like "You know how I can tell an addict's lying? His lips are moving…" with the rhythm and pacing of a comic who's been doing the same stand-up for years. They also provide some of the film's truer moments.
Ah, but beware the undertow of Josh Gad.
The guy has such incredible timing wrapped inside such innocuous self-deprecation that he tends to sneak into scenes and steal the show. As Neil, an emergency room resident and court-ordered participant whose needs are still wildly out of control, he manages to do some seriously sleazy stuff and still be strangely endearing.
It helps that Neil is tag-teaming it with Dede (Moore). They make a formidable duo; Neil's weakness and Dede's strength balance each other out beautifully. Both actors are completely at ease in their altered states.
So in the scheme of things Mike is the anchor, Neil's still drowning and Adam's just managing to keep his head above water. Lots of compelling places the movie could take each of them. Easy to see why the writers were conflicted about whose journey to follow. The closest the film comes to a choice is giving Adam slightly more screen time, which Ruffalo, who also got an Oscar nomination for "The Kids Are All Right," puts to good use.
After five years of sexual sobriety, Adam's thinking about dating again. You can almost see the consideration given Ruffalo's incredible playbook of expressions. Paltrow's Phoebe is a lucky coincidence, who turns up at a party. She's beautiful, smart, funny. And if that weren't enough, she's a triathlete and a breast cancer survivor. Their coupling is basically a PC-connection made in heaven, and Paltrow, per usual, is spot-on.
Except Phoebe refuses to date addicts; one in her past left emotional wounds. She asks, Adam doesn't tell. Problems ensue. There is a sex scene that starts to get serious — she's getting aggressive, he's getting unnerved — but instead of going for it, they retreat. Just one of the opportunities the script chooses to skirt around.
Mike's issues are with his son. Danny (Fugit) shows up on the doorstep after a long estrangement. His mom (Richardson) is ready to take him in. Mike is seriously conflicted, in part because Danny's doing his recovery sans the program. Danny hates the program, it's like a sibling forever competing for Mike's attention. The film does slightly better here dealing with the 12-step debate.
Neil's path is the most straightforward. It has its share of detours and denials. And there is Dede's friendship.
But like too much else in the film, it doesn't go as far as it should. More Moore and more Gad would have been nice. More emotion, more depth, more resolution too. Instead, "Thanks for Sharing" ultimately feels empty. It doesn't share enough.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun