TIFF 2012: Thanks For Sharing – Movie Review

Director: Stuart Blumberg
Screenplay: Matt Winston and Stuart Blumberg
 Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins, Josh Gad, Joely Richardson, Patrick Fugit, Carol Kane and Alecia Moore
Runtime: 110 minutes
TIFF 2012 Programme: Special Presentation

Stuart Blumberg’s Thanks For Sharing is an exercise in structured, rigid quality. That’s not a bad thing, per se, but it robs the film of striving to be anything better than the admittedly-great movie that it already is. Writer/director Blumberg – best known for his screenplay on the Oscar-nominated The Kids Are All Right – turns in his debut offering as a director here, but never strives to take the film out of safe waters, to its detriment.

But let’s not pull any punches here – this is a very strong film, especially for a first time director. The movie clearly comes from a strong, capable hand: somebody who has a deep understanding of these characters and their motivations. There’s little in the way of experimentation or directorial depth, but that’s to be expected; Blumberg is just finding his voice as the man behind the camera (not just the man behind the page), so it’s completely understandable that the majority of his output on his directorial debut comes largely from the screenplay.

And what a screenplay it is. It doesn’t reach particularly far in any one direction, nor does it try and achieve anything other than it promises, but the screenplay for Thanks For Sharing is one of those rare, contemporary offerings which might as well have been designed for teaching students how to construct a film. Everything is wonderfully tight, with absolutely no fat to it whatsoever. Characters’ motivations are clear, concise and compelling, and each scene drives the plot forward in a meaningful and deftly-handled way. There is appropriate seeding of future plot developments sprinkled throughout, so that nothing feels out of place or jarring. These are all marks of a master of the cinematic word, and Blumberg’s precision as a writer more than makes up for any first-time jitters at the idea of using visuals as a language separate from the words.

Along with the script is the truly excellent cast: Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins and Gwyneth Paltrow are all perfect in their roles, and the banter and chemistry between all three is mesmerizing, delicately balancing the line between strong, human drama and comedy. Meanwhile, relative newcomers Josh Gad, Patrick Fugit and, yes, even Pink all do an absolutely stellar job with the material that is given to them – which is, of course, extremely compelling. Ruffalo steals the show out from under all of them though, and his performance as the deeply on-edge, master-of-his-own-domain Adam goes to some fairly dark places which will keep the viewer guessing well into the final act of the film. There’s not a moment wasted between any of these characters, and the dynamics between them is what makes the movie everything that it is; Blumberg may have dreamed up these people, but this is one of those cases where the actors completely take over and occupy them down to the last detail.

Unfortunately, everything else about the film just feels like a lack of ambition. There is something to be said for the eloquently constructed and perfectly structured film, but that can only get you so far. There’s interesting, un-mined material here in the relatively unexplored topic of sexual addiction and the stigmas attached to it, but the film really does the bare minimum in exploring the deep-seeded nature of the disease. And though its exploration of the barriers it can create between the victim and any of his or her intimate relationships is a good start – be they friendly, romantic or familial – it would have been nice if Blumberg had been interested in diving further into the murky depths the disease can take you; as it stands, the film is a lot of talking about horrible things happening, and not a lot of seeing them.

Still, for what Blumberg was trying to accomplish, you’re not likely to get much better than this. Thanks For Sharing is an eloquent, deftly constructed film which proves that Blumberg is a force to be reckoned with behind the pen – and now, behind the camera, as well.

Photo Credit: Toronto International Film Festival