CAST: Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins, Josh Gad, Joely Richardson, Alecia Moore, Patrick Fugit, Carol Kane, Michaela Watkins, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Emily Meade, Poorna Jagannathan
RUNNING TIME: 112 mins
BASICALLY…: A group of recovering sex addicts all try to overcome their problems in different ways: one (Ruffalo) engages in a relationship with another woman (Paltrow); another (Robbins) deals with the unexpected return of his estranged son; and another (Gad) forms a friendship with a fellow addict (Moore)…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
For those who couldn’t sit through the serious examinations of sex addiction in Shame, you now have the option to pick Thanks For Sharing, a much lighter take on the subject matter. Unfortunately, by taking this particular route it does not have a clear indication of what it wants to be whereas Steve McQueen’s movie definitely did.
If you read the short plot summary at the top, you may notice that the film plays like three films all rolled together into one. We have a romantic-comedy, focusing on the relationship between recovering addict Mark Ruffalo and latest squeeze Gwyneth Paltrow; a family drama which sees Tim Robbins and wife Joely Richardson reconnect with their drug addict son; and a buddy comedy which expands on the friendship between fellow addicts Josh Gad and Alecia Moore (that’s P!nk, for you music fanatics out there). Some, if not all of these, run together at the same time, which makes the film lose its focus half the time and wobbles as it tries to balance all of them. One moment, we are at a nightclub where Gad is doing the idiot dance, obviously intended for laughs; another, we’re focusing on Ruffalo’s character as he tries to resist the urge to go back to his unhealthy ways, clearly done as a drama. It’s a strange mix of these stories that ultimately makes the overall film’s tone lost within itself.
It wouldn’t be as distracting if the individual stories and characters were interesting, but again they sadly fall flat. These stories have no gravitas to them, mostly rely on genre clichés and have about as much unpredictability as a greeting card. You can tell where certain plot threads are going to go as soon as they’re introduced – for example, once Ruffalo doesn’t tell Paltrow about his addition, you have it in your mind that things will lead to the “liar revealed” cliché and, what a shock, it does. No drama is really created because we’ve seen it all before, and no interest is given from the audience to these tired plot threads.
Out of the male leads – Ruffalo, Robbins and Gad – it’s Gad who unexpectedly comes off as the most likable, even if he does start off as a creepy pervert with a giant porn collection and, most detestably, his “upskirt camera” that rightfully gets him fired from his job. Ruffalo, despite acting as his usual charming self, is roped with a guy who not only lies to girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow about his recovery but is also shown to be on the phone to a sex hotline as Paltrow sleeps. To this reviewer’s eyes, these aren’t charming slip-ups, they are dick moves (no pun intended). Paltrow seems right to leave him in the latter scene, he really did bring it upon himself. Robbins is probably the most hateful out of the pack, as a sort of Jesus-type to his fellow addicts who has trouble at home with his junkie son who makes a surprise return. Their relationship is sour to say the least, given their respective addictions, and that’s understandable. But the son (played by Patrick Fugit) does whatever he can to make his father proud, even beginning to build a pond in his backyard for him, but daddy Robbins is always sceptical and rather hateful to his son. The scene when we are introduced to him, he’s downstairs raiding the fridge having somehow gotten inside. Robbins, armed with a bat thinking it’s a burglar, goes down and sees it’s his son yet still has the bat ready for attack. Dude, he’s your son! Drug addict or no, he’s still your offspring and should be loved no matter what he turns out to be. It doesn’t help his likability – if anything, it disintegrates it – and you have a hard time feeling for someone like him for the rest of the movie.
The only other actor who is actually good and interesting is Alecia Moore, making her mainstream acting debut here with a strong performance that’s both heartfelt and funny. Her chemistry with Gad is also pretty good as well, and both make a good team that quite rightly don’t end up in a romantic relationship by the end. Hopefully, she will get more acting offers after this film because she really is a standout.
The other actresses, Joely Richardson and especially Gwyneth Paltrow, feel unfortunately wasted in their roles. Paltrow features the most prominently, while Richardson is just the stock “supportive wife/mother” archetype she does not deserve to be a part of. They both do fine, but their roles are fairly limited in connection with the wider story of the film. However, Paltrow does have a few scenes to show off her physical attraction, especially in one memorable scene where she jokingly gives Ruffalo a lap dance. You have to admit, Paltrow still looks rather hot after all these years (but maybe that’s just us).
The only other thing worth mentioning that’s against its favour is the work of director and co-writer Stuart Blumberg on this film. It’s hard to imagine that he was Oscar-nominated for co-writing the script for The Kids Are All Right, a human dramady that was both funny and moving while still being true to its characters and their realistic portrayals, when not much here seems remotely human or relatable. For instance, a character attends a dinner party where exclusively on the menu is – we’re not kidding here – fried insects. Maybe it’s just a New York thing, maybe there really are some small groups of people who actually have these get-togethers, but to the outside world this looks disturbingly weird. Who in the right mind would look at a stick insect and say, “Boy, all he needs is some ketchup!”? And the strangest part is that everyone at that party seems to be completely cool about it; literally no-one ever thinks that this is all really messed up. Either Blumberg and/or co-writer Matt Winston have actually been to one of these parties, but they forgot the fact that none of us ever have, or ever will be because it looks absolutely gross.
Some of the character motivations also feel a little alien and come out of nowhere. In their second scene together, Paltrow openly admits to Ruffalo that she is a recovering from breast cancer with no build-up or anything, she just says it out of nowhere. It’s such a big reveal about a character, and yet such a strange way for it to be executed by Blumberg. Strange enough for us to use this classic quote from The Room:
Other memorable out-of-nowhere moments include a late scene between Ruffalo and a girl who starts having a panic attack during foreplay, and Gad’s touchy-feely mother who is introduced but never brought back for anything major except for a few awkward scenes. Each one is stranger than the other. Even the ending leaves you on a confused note, but more in the choice of song than anything else. The ending itself is fine, but the song they chose does not seem to fit the mood at all and makes you wonder if they want you to feel happy or sad.
In fact, that confused choice of an ending is perfect in summing up Thanks For Sharing. It knows what it wants to say, but it never gets across how it’s feeling in its execution.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Thanks For Sharing only exists as a sub-par alternative to Shame, but even then it never goes into detail about the weighty material of sex addiction. Fine performances all round, especially from Alecia Moore, but the stories are flat, the characters are unlikable, and the overall execution is awkward and lacking in actual humanity. Put simply, this is a movie that needs to get laid, big time.