TIFF 2012: Thanks for Sharing (Stuart Blumberg, USA)

Sex addiction, most notably depicted in last year’s relentlessly bleak Shame, receives a slightly uplifting makeover throughout writer/director Stuart Blumberg’s Thanks for Sharing. Focusing on several individuals grappling with their respective demons to varying degrees, Blumberg’s crafted a decidedly uneven feature that sports an emotional aesthetic similar to more recent romantic dramedies, trying its best to balance disparate emotional elements with little to much success.

Balancing mainstream sensibilities with surprising incisiveness, Thanks for Sharing follows most closely Mark Ruffalo’s Adam, five-years sober, as he regularly consults with his Alanon sponsor Mike (Tim Robbins) and takes a seemingly, moreover hilariously hopeless young doctor (Josh Gad) under his wing as a sponsee. What ensues is essentially a slightly off-balance ensemble piece that examines each of these individuals’ respective lives and daily struggles as the startling truths behind addiction are wholeheartedly touched upon. From emotionally honest struggles to simply break from routine to relapsing to challenging others’ perceptions of addicts in general, Blumberg deftly covers all his bases as its often unsubtle sense of humor helps to break up monotony.

Vulgarity aside, there’s always something to be said about a film that dares to challenge convention by tackling a controversial subject with even the least bit of finesse. In remaining steadfast in its intentions, Thanks for Sharing aptly does so despite a penchant to alienate, if mostly because of a decision to add appreciable levity to the production at very frequent intervals. This in mind, its sense of humor is almost always effective, and as a revealing look behind the curtain at the perils of sex addiction, Thanks for Sharing exists on the opposite side of the tracks as an emotionally honest, insightful and even touching albeit tonally erratic examination of it. Throw in presumably excellent turns from Ruffalo and the gang, and you have yourselves one solid directorial debut from scribe-turned-first-time-director Stuart Blumberg.

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