MEEK AT THE MOVIES —- Thanks for Sharing ( 2.5 STARS )


^ six coins in a fountain ? maybe THAT’s what we hear in “Thanks for Sharing.”

Sex addiction is a strange and fascinating matter. It’s also something that’s hard to comprehend and even harder to have sympathy for, because after all, what are we talking about, someone who’s compulsively after the fruit of life? That’s like trying to feel bad for someone who eats too much sushi or chocolate mousse. No matter, the line between indulgence and addiction is a fine one, and while Stuart Blumberg’s “Thanks for Sharing” doesn’t quite get between the sheets of the matter, it does delve into the lives of three recovering addicts.

Tall and rangy Mike (Tim Robbins) runs a New York based support group like a big Papa Bear — stern, avuncular and always quick with an answer. He may be the warmest practitioner of touch love. Mike’s addiction, while a bit vague, is more substance-based than sexual in nature; but he’s been clean for some time and seems to have a solid home life with his dutiful wife (a radiant Joely Richardson) who has obviously been through the wars (probably not to the same degree as Anthony Wiener’s spouse, Huma Abedin, but still) and opted to stand by her man. Then there’s his trusted lieutenant Adam (Mark Ruffalo), a successful international financier with a primo high-rise condo in Manhattan ; he’s five years sober, and because sex is so easy to come by, goes to painful extremes to truncate alone time with the TV and internet. The good news is that Adam has met the perfect woman in Phoebe (a very toned Gwyneth Paltrow), though he’s reticent to tell her about his bug (sex is permissible, just not compulsive sex). Adam’s also taken on a reticence to tell her about his bug (sex is permissible, just not compulsive sex). He has also taken on a new charge who’s a discombobulated mess. Recently terminated from his medical post in a hospital for sexually harassing a co-worker, Neil (Josh Gad) subsequently rubs up against a woman in the subway and as a result of that offense gets mandated to the group.

As gross as that sounds, Neil’s a pretty affable guy and perhaps the most anchored of the lot. After ‘sharing’ he forges an immediate and awkward alliance with Dede (Alecia Moore, aka Pink, who is excellent in her first real dramatic role) who does more for Neil’s progress than Adam. Adam and Mike, it turns out, are not quite the pillars of Gibraltar initially reported. Mike’s son (Patrick Fujit), who was both a victim and refugee of Mike’s down years, returns to the nest suddenly; past pains quickly percolate to the surface. Over in Adam’s killer view of the big city, Phoebe’s called on her eating and exercise disorders and can’t figure out how to digest Adam’s confession of sexual compulsion.

Such revelations become triggers and how they go off and integrate together in the bigger picture doesn’t quite mesh. Blumberg, who as a story teller garnered an Academy Award nod for penning “The Kids are All Right,” seems a bit hesitant behind the camera in his directorial debut. Situations erupt out of nowhere, and since we’re in varying stages of ‘recovery,’ without a genuine taste of the descent into addiction hell, the “now” feels more like artifice than sincere soul-baring. The Neil and Dede thread yields the greatest rewards, perhaps because we catch Neil just as he’s fallen, coupled with the reality that he’s not a lean, chiseled alpha male, but more a slovenly Jack Black or John Candy type. Dede’s efforts to get him out of his shell and pig sty apartment ring with bona fide compassion. For two big personas, the pair have many quiet, small moments tinged with sexual tension. How Blumberg uses that and the actors is a true charm and maybe the story he should have built the film around. The other A-list actors are fine, it’s just that their characters lack depth, especially Ruffalo’s Adam. He’s a weepy version of Michael Fassbender’s shark-like sexaholic in “Shame,” a film that dove into the nastiness of sex compulsion and put the audience on edge. Here we’re told the stories of depravity in group. Hearing is not seeing.

— Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies