“Thanks for Sharing”: Let Your Inhibitions Run Wild

Helen Rittelmeyer is obviously right that we’re in a cultural moment where addiction and recovery provide almost the only common language we have for exploring subjects like grace, penitence, and hope. Thanks for Sharing, the sex-addiction romcom starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Mark “Ruffalo Ruffalo ruffalo ruffalo ruffalo Ruffalo ruffalo” Ruffalo (…sorry), is yet another example of Helen’s point. Ruffalo (ruffalo) is a recovering sex addict named Adam, who after five years of sexual sobriety is ready-ish to start dating again, heavily prompted by his confident, overbearing sponsor (Tim Robbins). He and Phoebe (Paltrow) sort of hit it off, in an oddly rote and surface-level way, but he’s keeping his recovery a secret from her due to fear of judgment. Meanwhile his own sponsee, Josh Gad’s Neil, is dealing with his own even bendier honesty: He was court-ordered into the program after rubbing against women on the subway, and he lies to get a thirty-day chip he hasn’t earned in order to impress a girl (Pink, who is fantastic by the way–so is Gad, whom I hadn’t seen before).

Man, I liked this movie. It’s intensely heartfelt (yeah uh, there’s a Mountain Goats song on the soundtrack) and there are powerful themes of honesty and humility. The role reversals are maybe predictable and even formulaic, but they work–most movie formulas are incredibly satisfying when they’re done right.

The underlying philosophy is super-easy to criticize. There’s the usual flexible religion–”Your higher power can be an act of service,” which is very sweet but also kind of a caricature of works-righteousness–and there’s zero politics at all, no hint that patriarchal or misogynistic culture affects how men and women use sex. That stuff is important and this would be a better movie, maybe, if it grappled with them.

But this is a genuine, honest, compassionate and often very funny movie, well-acted and well-wrought. It is, and I hope you won’t take this the wrong way, touching.

About Eve Tushnet

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