Thanks for Sharing
Opens Fri., Sept. 20 at Guild 45th. Rated R. 112 minutes.
Gwyneth Paltrow as a defensive, “healthy” anorexic, Mark Ruffalo as a smoothie with a penchant for hookers—they seem like a perfect couple. She does triathlons, he does three-ways. Both get their cardio, so what’s the problem? Given that Thanks for Sharing is set in the prosperous, secular blocks of New York, the budding romance between Phoebe and Adam would seem comparatively normal and, simultaneously, dysfunctional. As long as their careers and mortgages are solid, who’s to criticize? Also on the same track is pudgy young doctor Neil (Josh Gad), who had no time to develop social skills while cramming for his bar mitzvah and MCATs, so he just rubs up against random women for subway frottage. And if that fails him, there’s always the Internet back home.
Directed by Stuart Blumberg, who co-wrote The Kids Are Alright, this is a film that ought to make you more uncomfortable than it dares. Sad, lonely men masturbating in front of computers—there’s a modern, universal sight, a symptom of our age. But Blumberg’s main intent is therapy and recovery. Which, with Paltrow’s premium brand presence, is an easier sell. Adam and Neil are in the same 12-step group for sex addicts, led by the serene, long-married Mike (Tim Robbins), who has an aphorism for every crisis. Mike is mentoring Adam, who in turn coaches newbie Neil (sent by court order, if not his own sense of guilt). Rounding out the multiplex demo is Dede, played by the pop star Pink (billed as Alecia Moore) with considerable sincerity if less craft.
Blumberg shies away from the nastiness and degradation of sex pathologies, save for one brief scene. He’s looking for the third-act path out of the pit, not to remain there for long. By splitting his story among three couples (Mike has a wife, played by Joely Richardson), Blumberg might be hoping for one of those Richard Curtis ensemble comedies, only the jokes aren’t there. (Neil complains, “I haven’t jerked off in week—I feel like a giant blue ball!”)
Ruffalo makes an appealing couple with Paltrow—and it’s hard to believe she, 14 years past her Shakespeare in Love Oscar, has been mostly reduced to Iron Man cameos. She still has that glowing, quizzical presence, a kind of skepticism about her gifts and good fortune. Someone needs to write better parts for her, someone better than Blumberg.