There isn’t a long lineage of sex addiction dramas. There’s Choke and Shame, sure, but Thanks for Sharing is drastically lighter. Unlike the histrionics of Shame, director Stuart Blumberg uses Thanks for Sharing to address the illness in a more relatable manner – which, as a compromise, means a romantic comedy and string of predictable twists.
The screenplay staunchly supports the 12-step programme – both in practice and as a plot device that connects the three protagonists. Mark Ruffalo is a recovering sex addict who’s been sober for five years, even disposing his laptop and TV to hide temptations; he starts a relationship with Gwyneth Paltrow, a cancer survivor unaware of his past.
Ruffalo’s sponsor, Tim Robbins, is less interesting as an older family man with a household of cliched storylines that belong to Neighbours. It’s actually at times a distraction – the minimal screen time with his son is another relationship thrown in that distracts from the overall themes.
The third addict is Josh Gad, a chronic masturbator with a storyline that at first bears the most dramatic weight. He’s kicked out of medical school for filming up a colleague’s skirt, and is understandably destitute when his career path subsequently hits a cul-de-sac – Gad finally admits he has a problem, and starts to take taxis and bike rides instead of public subways. His struggle then turns loosely comic, placing more emphasis on his ludicrous cycling costume than an internal battle with desire.
That soft edge is present in Ruffalo’s and Robbins’ threads, which both concede to generic relationship dramas. The plots cross over meticulously in a staggeringly contrived manner – in times of emergency, it seems their phones only have each other’s numbers. Similarly, the comedy is frequently limp, with Gad pursuing the unfortunate trend of referencing a film (“Okay, this isn’t Il Postine”) in place of an actual joke.
It’s a shame (no Steve McQueen pun intended) because Thanks for Sharing, for all its faults, still treats the subject matter with respect. Even when the screenplay lunges for laughs, the characters remain focused on the 12-step programme – and you want them to succeed. A crowd pleaser, sure, but also a missed opportunity.