'Sex addict?" says a woman in Stuart Blumberg's new film, "Thanks for Sharing." She's just discovered a secret side of her boyfriend, but she's unsure whether his secret is even real. "Isn't that just something guys say when they're caught cheating?"
This question -- put by Gwyneth Paltrow, as Phoebe, to Mark Ruffalo, as Adam -- marks the only moment of skepticism in "Thanks for Sharing." Sexual addiction has become a handy pop diagnosis for public figures like serial tweeter Anthony Weiner and cracked actor Charlie Sheen, and a number of movies -- including last year's "Shame" and next week's "Don Jon" -- are tackling the topic. But we've also seen a backlash: Sexual addiction has been famously omitted from the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the official bible of mental disease, and there have been recent articles by and about experts who don't believe in the condition.
"Thanks for Sharing" takes sex addiction at face value, treating it with sensitivity and respect while mining its inherent comedic potential. The movie is essentially a collection of stories radiating from one New York support group, focusing primarily on the budding romance between handsome Adam and pretty Phoebe. Tim Robbins plays group leader Mike, who dishes out wisdom even as his son (a very good Patrick Fugit) fights a lonely battle against heroin. Josh Gad deftly handles the tricky role of Neil, a comic-relief character with serious problems (he's facing jail time). Dede, the film's main female addict, is convincingly played by Alecia Moore, aka pop singer P!nk.
The quality of the performances varies: Ruffalo and Paltrow never quite hit it off on-screen, though Gad and Moore establish a surprisingly lively, even tender, rapport. The script, by Blumberg (who co-wrote 2010's marvelous "The Kids Are All Right" and makes his directorial debut here) also has highs and lows. One unexpected scene, involving an alluring but disturbed young woman (Emily Meade), feels jarringly intense and overly punitive.
"Thanks for Sharing" has several nice moments and understated insights, but it never quite gets to the heart of its subject. "You really want to look under that rug?" Adam asks Phoebe. She doesn't, really, and neither does the movie.
PLOT Members of a sex-addiction support group struggle to keep their clothes on.
CAST Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins, Josh Gad
BOTTOM LINE A sensitive take on a potentially snicker-worthy subject, though this comedy-drama never quite gets to the heart of its characters' problems.