09/20/2013 10:17 am ET Updated Nov 20, 2013

ReThink Review: Thanks For Sharing -- Sex Addiction Goes Mainstream

As a society, we've become more sympathetic and knowledgeable about addiction and no longer see it purely as a failure of morals and personal fortitude. However, the concept of sex addiction is still greeted with skepticism, if not eye rolls. Considered primarily a male condition common in good-looking or wealthy male celebrities who are caught cheating, many consider sex addiction as simply men being as promiscuous and sex-obsessed as their circumstances allow -- and if you're rich and famous, it will allow quite a lot.

But this doesn't reflect those for whom sex is something that has become compulsive and out of control, wrecking their lives, their relationships with others, and their ability to function normally. This is the subject of the surprisingly good, funny, and insightful film Thanks For Sharing, which follows four characters at various stages of their battles with sex addiction who are connected through a Sex Addicts Anonymous support group. And with a cast of A-list stars including Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Tim Robbins, perhaps people will start treating sex addiction as a real disorder instead of being written off as men being pigs and women being sluts. Watch my ReThink Review of Thanks For Sharing below (transcript following).


When I saw the trailer for Thanks For Sharing, I wrote it off as a fluffy ensemble rom-com questionably based in the world of sex addicts in recovery. But I'm happy to admit that I had this movie totally wrong. Directed and co-written by Stuart Blumberg, the writer of The Kids Are Alright, Thanks For Sharing is an insightful, funny, and emotionally raw film that takes sex addiction, and really all addiction, very seriously by showing something we're not used to seeing -- people who realize that the only way they can repair their lives is to rely on others. That's a big change from the iconoclastic, one-man-against-the-odds heroes we're used to -- but in real life, and especially with serious addiction, few of us can do it alone, and Thanks For Sharing is a celebration of that inter-reliance.

Mark Ruffalo plays Adam, a successful environmental consultant living in New York who's been sober from sex addiction for five years, which also means no masturbating, no sex, and not owning a television, computer, or smartphone to avoid temptation. Adam is one of the success stories at a sex addicts anonymous meeting run by Mike (played by Tim Robbins), who's also Adam's sponsor. Mike is the room's elder statesman, full of tough love and wisdom nuggets who's given a large chunk of his life to being on call for recovering addicts, and even hiring them for his contracting business, though we later see that his past addictions as well as his dedication to recovery have strained things with his wife (played by Joely Richardson) and his son Danny, a former addict (played by Patrick Fugit) who's served time in jail and suddenly shows up at the house hoping to make amends.

New to recovery but initially not taking it seriously is Neil (played by Josh Gad), an emergency room doctor and Adam's sponsee whose promising medical career is jeopardized by his inability to keep his sexual urges in check. When he finally comes to grips with the depth of his problem, he gets the attention of Dede, a hairdresser just beginning recovery played by Alecia Moore, also known as the singer Pink in her first acting role.

If you're like me, you've probably scoffed at the concept of sex addiction, which is often claimed by male celebrities when they're caught cheating. But this is smartly brought up early in Thanks For Sharing by Phoebe, a cancer survivor and fitness freak played by Gwyneth Paltrow who falls for Adam but is wary and confused about the nature of his sex addiction. While it's easy to joke that a lot of people, especially men, are as sex obsessed as manners and opportunity allow them to be, simply being horny doesn't explain being unable to stop something that's clearly ruining your life, as it is with Neil and Dede, and when Adam starts to backslide, you feel truly scared for him.

Those who dislike AA's pseudo-Christian aspects might object to Thanks For Sharing's full-throated endorsement of 12-step programs and, in particular, attending meetings. But the film addresses this as well, where we see meetings not as a place of indoctrination, but as a free form of therapy where people can be truly honest about something so personal, painful, and stigmatizing, knowing that being truthful and vulnerable not only helps them come to grips with their problem, but can also help others. The result is a true community, an unconventional family of would-be strangers, and their dedication to supporting and helping each other feels like something rare and wonderful in this age of seemingly increasing disconnection.

At the same time, Thanks For Sharing is laugh-out-loud funny, though with the kind of humor that comes from intelligent, self-aware characters instead of broad comedy. All the performances are terrific, with Robbins putting in one of his best performances in a while, and Ruffalo giving maybe his best performance since his first movie role in 2000's You Can Count On Me. If you know someone who's struggled with addiction -- and whether you know it or not, you almost certainly do -- Thanks For Sharing is enormously insightful. But if you simply like funny, entertaining, well-acted movies for adults, you'll definitely find a lot to like.

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