When an environmental consultant (Mark Ruffalo) works up the nerve to tell his prospective girlfriend (Gwyneth Paltrow) that he’s a recovering sex addict, she can barely stifle an incredulous laugh: “Isn’t that just something guys say when they get caught cheating?!?” The DSM-V may differ, but credit Stuart Blumberg’s directorial debut for treating sexual compulsion as gravely as it might an addiction to alcohol or drugs. Ruffalo’s five-years-sober hero is ready to take his first steps back toward romance; Paltrow’s breast-cancer survivor has a mania for exercise, which subtweets the notion that we all dabble in one addiction or another. Meanwhile, recovery newcomers—a habitual frotteur (Josh Gad) court-ordered to rehab and a druggie (Alecia Moore, better known as Pink) with commitment issues—make a winningly mismatched platonic couple, even when the fat-guy comic-relief act feels like a clumsy attempt to lighten the mood.
We’ve seen these characters before, as well as the 12-step sage (Tim Robbins) trying to make amends with his long-estranged son (Almost Famous's Patrick Fugit). What makes things different is the way Blumberg strikes an assured balance between dour downward spirals and “work the program” uplift, gifting these flawed people with both a sense of hope and the knowledge that it will never be enough. Although Thanks for Sharing starts with brief shots of the sexualized imagery in which the modern world steeps, Blumberg doesn’t exempt his characters from responsibility, nor does he keep himself at arm’s length. He’s right there with them, one day at a time.
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