Thanks for Sharing (R) (112 min.) — After the bleak decadence of 2011's Shame, sex addiction would seem an unlikely subject for an ensemble romantic comedy. Oscar nominated screenwriter Stuart Blumberg (The Kids Are Alright) makes it work for most of his directing debut's running time. The laughs spring from the foxhole humor of addicts needling and nurturing each other; the romance evolves just as unexpectedly.
At the forefront is Adam (Mark Ruffalo), whose drug-fueled orgy days are five years behind him, earning another chip from his support group. Adam toes the celibacy line dictated by the group: no masturbation, Internet or TV usage, and sex only in a devoted relationship. Thanks for Sharing is wise and respectful of this process; the film's best scenes are members opening up about their addiction and consequences, often with raw humor.
Adam's placid sponsor Mike (Tim Robbins) sums up sex addiction as "like trying to quit smoking crack when the pipe's attached to your body." Mike and Adam have their demons in check and skeletons in their closets. Each is becoming impatient with a new member, a joker and therapy slacker named Neil (Josh Gad) whose medical career is jeopardized by his inappropriate behavior with patients and colleagues.
Adam meets Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow) and takes a chance on dating again. Mike's patched-up marriage is shaken when their drug addicted son (Patrick Fugit) reappears. Neil is getting tough love support from another newbie, Dede, played impressively by Alecia Moore, better known as the pop star Pink. Whatever she wants to call herself, Moore's first scene alone proves she can be a movie star if she wishes.
Subplots thicken, characters fall off the wagon or come close, and by the 90-minute mark Blumberg's thrashing for ways to wrap up all the problems laid out. Thanks for Sharing actually shares a bit too much about its characters, with Mike's erratic home life and Phoebe's all-wrong reaction to Adam's addiction as major "whaaaa?" moments that could disappear. But the movie has its heart and humor in the right place, and there's no Shame in that. B (Veterans 24 and Starlight 20 in Tampa, Regency 20 in Brandon, Woodlands Square 20 in Oldsmar)
Steve Persall, Times movie critic