Thanks for Sharing begins with a man praying before breakfast. Next, he is seated at the breakfast table, almost in the same prayer position as before. Filmed from overhead, we see his watch, tie, and belt laid out before him in a very meticulous and exact manner. In another movie, he might be a samurai warrior preparing for battle. Instead, he is Adam (Mark Ruffalo) a normal businessman in New York City and he is preparing battle, but of a very personal nature. Adam is a sex addict. To traverse one of the busiest cities in the world, Adam will have to combat every urge, every desire, and every piece of advertisement known to man.
The movie follows Adam in an all too familiar pattern. Adam has been sober for five years (good for him), but now it’s time for him get out there and date and lead a normal and respectable life. He meets Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow) and the two hit it off, but only for a while. Phoebe has her own set of issues, she exercises too much and might have an eating disorder. The movie doesn’t explore these moments or any moments for that matter, simply because it doesn’t have enough time for Phoebe, or Adam, or anyone else in this ensemble. Thanks for Sharing isn’t interested in figuring out the whys of the addiction, it’s just interested in showing us that everyone has an addiction. Adam is sex addict, but I think he is less an addict and more a man who needs structure and control. He believes in the program, he prepares for his day with meticulous intent, and he maps out his life in a very particular way. His sponsor, Mike (Tim Robbins) tells him that the goal is not to live like a monk, but I think that is what Adam wants and needs. Mike was a drunk and a sex addict, but now he is addicted to the program. He may be clean and sober, but he has replaced his anger with judgement and seems to be just as intolerable as before. There is also Dede (Alecia ‘Pink’ Moore) who is a sex addict (she can only communicate with men through sex) and a heavy drug user. And there is Neil (Josh Gad), incapable of seeing women beyond anything other than a masturbatory object. Neil looses the job he worked his whole life for when he gets caught filming up his boss’s skirt. All the characters are given a moment to vocalize their pain and describe their low points, but it does little to make them seem more complex and multi-dimensional. There are glimpses of the dangers and the emotionally crippling effect of addiction, but they are merely glimpses, not revelations. This is a movie sorely in need of a few revelations. Three would work, one would help, this has none.
During the height of the Hayes Production Code, it was not uncommon for a studio to release a “message picture”. These message pictures would tackle a social topic and dramatize it. The most memorable of these movies was Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend (1945), which did much more than send a message about the dangers of alcoholism, it made for good cinema. Some message pictures, notably The Days of Wine and Roses (1962) and Smashed (2012), are excellent films with a fantastic performances, but feel like large and well produced commercials for AA. Thanks For Sharing is not really a commercial for AA, NA, or even SA, even though I think it wants to be. It is a message picture, and it’s message is clear: sex is an addiction, drugs are an addiction, alcohol is an addiction, exercise, eating habits, television and internet are all addictions. That’s fine, I can get behind that, but it begs the question, if everyone is addicted to something, then what is the problem?