I've always been intrigued by films that introduce me to things I don't know or understand – viewpoints, perspectives, religions, customs etc. I don't know much about addiction. The closest thing I have to an addiction is my desire to own more Blu-rays - but that's pretty normal, right? Right?! Although it wasn't the easiest film to watch, I enjoyed screening 'Smashed' at Sundance in 2012 because it offered insight into the reality of alcoholism. Being a problem that's housed in the genes of both my mother and father's families, I learned a lot through 'Smashed's genuine portrayal of the disease and the effects that it has on all types of relationships. 'Thanks For Sharing' achieves the same things through the exploration of sexual addictions – only in a less depressing and slightly more sugar-coated way.
'Thanks For Sharing' tells a tale of sex addition mainly through the eyes of three different men fighting it, each at a different stage in the battle. The central of these three characters is Adam (Mark Ruffalo). We open on a great milestone for him: five years of sexual sobriety. He begins each day with prayer to a higher being, asking for the strength to make it through the day and to help others along the way. We don't see what Adam was like in his uncontrollable days, but it's obvious that he hates the person that he used to be.
Next we meet Mike (Tim Robbins). Serving as Adam's sponsor, he's exceptionally proud of him. Mike has 15 years of sobriety under his belt and encourages Adam to give relationships a shot again. Adam has been completely sex-free over the past five years. Having learned how to carry a smooth marriage of his own and curb his appetites, Mike wants to stop Adam from his course to celibacy and to experience the same joys of a long-lasting relationship. Mike wants to see Adam have the rich life that he deserves.
And lastly we meet Neil (Josh Gad). Adam may serve as Neil's sponsor, but their relationship is nothing like Adam and Mike's. You see, the only reason that Neil attends A.A. is because it's a court-ordered action. Unlike Adam, who presumably had an easier time feeding his addiction because of his good looks, Neil's addition is a little different. He's not as likely to have sex as he is to quench his addiction with porn, masturbation, and flat-out harassing molestation. When we first see Neil, he's riding in a subway train. Despite the car being less than crowded, he stands directly behind an attractive female stranger wearing tight and skimpy clothes, grinding his crotch into her backside. It's for getting busted for actions like this that Neil is being forced to attend A.A.; he's hardly attending with the intention of getting better.
Neil's heart isn't in the right place, but he quickly has a wake-up call that scares him into giving it all he's got. With the help of a new friend, he just might be able to do it. Alicia Moore, a.k.a. pop star Pink, plays Dede, a sex addict who's so depressed that another self-loathing relapse might result in suicide. I didn't know that Moore was capable of acting, but she does a great job here. Dede and Neil quickly learn to lean on one another as moral support to sobriety and control.
The first half of 'Thanks For Sharing' very effectively portrays the lonely despair and hopeless sadness of sexual addiction – especially in a scene that shows Neil's sexual routine. It's heartbreaking. But at the same time, we see little glimmers of hope. We understand what can be gained by overcoming it via the other two central characters. Adam meets wonderful girl (Gwyneth Paltrow) and begins a charming relationship, while Mike and his wife show just how "normal" an addict's life can become – that is, until we dig a little deeper into his character.
We soon meet Mike's son, Danny (Patrick Fugit), a supposedly reformed drug addict who once cleaned out his entire family in order to support his addiction. When Danny returns home, touting several months of sobriety, Mike doesn't believe him. He doesn't trust him. Through this relationship, we get a great dichotomy that mirrors the relationship that Adam begins. It's an additional bonus to have the Danny character because we see the effects of two types of addiction from different viewpoints.
Unfortunately, the second half of 'Thanks For Sharing' doesn't stay as strong as the first. Although some parts dive into very dark subject matter, the majority of it slides into a predictable, sugarcoated and cliché-filled territory. Its casual and informative message becomes a little preachy, undermining the brilliantly empathetic world established in the first half. Although 'Thanks For Sharing' starts off as a solid four-and-a-half star film, it's ultimately eroded into a three-and-a-half star picture.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate has placed 'Thanks For Sharing' on a Region A BD-50 in a blue Elite keepcase that vertically slides into a cardboard slipcase. The keepcase holds a slip containing a code for the redemption of an Ultraviolet copy of the film. Upon inserting the disc, you're immediately forced to watch an FBI warning, a Lionsgate vanity reel and a commentary disclaimer, followed by skippable trailers for 'I Love You Phillip Morris' and 'Much Ado About Nothing.' Oddly, a third trailer plays before the main menu, but you cannot skip past this one. Lionsgate really wants you to see the trailer for 'Girl Most Likely.'
'Thanks For Sharing' has been given a decent 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that presents the film in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The majority of the picture carries the crisp clarity that only comes from digitally shot film. If you're looking closely, you'll notice very minute bits of noise from time to time – but probably nothing that an untrained eye would notice.
For the most part, 'Thanks For Sharing' reveals a nice amount of detail. You'll see just how hairy Mark Ruffalo is with his shirt off, tiny beads of sweat running down Josh Gad's flushed face, individual stubby hairs on Patrick Fugit's chin, and so on. On very rare occasions, the textures and finer details appear mildly muddled – but this is hardly a reoccurring nuisance.
I noticed two palettes used throughout the picture – a colorfully inviting one and a cold uninviting one. Set in New York City during spring/summer, the streets are hopping with colorful imagery. When things are well with our characters, these colors shine vibrantly – but when temptation is kicking in, the palette shifts to an uncomfortable and dull one. It's not desirous whatsoever. The lighting will even suck the warm fleshtones right out of the actors. Black levels are consistently rich and strong throughout.
The only real flaw that I noticed was a bit of flickering noise during a brief skyline shot 46 minutes in.
'Thanks For Sharing' has been given a standard 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix. The film's introductory vanity reels (that highlight every single production company involved) show off what the mix is capable off, offering great instances of active rear channels and seamlessly imaging effects – but the movie itself isn't mixed with such care.
This lossless audio mix hardly capitalizes on the format's potential. Instead, it sticks to the pretty basic style used in most romantic comedies. The only element to be constantly mixed throughout all channels is the music – but even then it's mostly mixed around the space with equal balance. One scene features Dede introducing Neil to a hippie dance party. The only time that any music is dynamically mixed is in this scene. Psychedelic sounds bounce around the theater. It's a shame that the rest of the music couldn't be mixed this strongly.
Vocals are mostly clear. Only one bit of dialog sounded off to me. During the uncomfortable scene that leads to Neil hitting rock bottom, his dialog sounds stuffy, as if the raw audio was captured in a tiny empty room.
Plenty of effects are used throughout the picture, but most originate from the front speakers. Environmental effects are used in Central Park and city street setting. These are about the only locations that warrant these surround effects. Aside from a banging sound believed to be a home invasion at Mike's house, I don't recall hearing any other distinct effects mixed in the surround and rear channels of my home theater.
'Thanks For Sharing' feels like something that you would see at the Sundance Film Festival. It's the type of indie film that would have had pre-festival buzz because of the cast, crew, and topic, but would have earned "meh" responses due to its mid-movie shift towards sugarcoating the previously well-described and controversial subject matter. Despite not caring for the second half of the film, the first provided such an empathetic view into the life of sex addiction that I can't help but praise that part of it for educating me. Being shot digitally, the picture quality is pretty good, but the audio is basic. It's nice having a little indie flick with a few special features, the best of them being the writer's commentary. 'Thanks For Sharing' is worth seeing once, but doesn't have much rewatchability. I recommend giving it a rent before making any decisions to purchase.