IAR Press Conference Coverage: 'Thanks for Sharing'

Friday, 20 September 2013 11:24 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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IAR Press Conference Coverage: 'Thanks for Sharing'

Sex Addiction is no joke. That doesn't mean, however, that Thanks for Sharing can't treat the subject with a little humor.

Opening in theaters today, Thanks for Sharing is the feature directorial debut of Stuart Blumberg, who earned an Academy Award nomination as the co-writer of The Kids Are All Right

For his first feature, Blumberg has assembled a tremendous ensemble cast that reunites him with Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers) and also boasts the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man 3), Tim Robbins (Mystic River), Josh Gad (The Internship), Joely Richardson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous), and Alecia Moore, aka Pink, in her most substantial film role to date.

Co-written by Blumberg and Matt Winston, Thanks for Sharing is an ensemble comedy-drama centered around three men grappling with sex addiction.  Adam (Ruffalo) is dealing with his first serious relationship in years, afraid of revealing his addiction to Phoebe (Paltrow), the woman with whom he's falling in love.  Adam's sponsor Mike (Robbins) has been successfully dealing with his sexual compulsion for fifteen years, but his discipline complicates his relationships with his wife (Richardson) and son (Fugit), coping with an addiction of his own.  Finally there's Neil (Gad), who loses his job because of his public shenanigans, leading him into a program where he forms an odd couple friendship with Dede (Moore), another recovering sex addict.

IAR was on hand for the recent Los Angeles press conference, during which director Blumberg and stars Paltrow, Robbins, Moore, and Gad enthusiastically discussed Thank for Smoking's unique blend of comedy and drama, working with Ruffalo, what attracted them to the subject matter, their own addictions, and the indispensability of community.

Just a few years ago, Shame chronicled one man's compulsive sexual behavior in a gripping and difficult-to-watch drama.  Where that film was NC-17 and unvarnished, Thanks for Sharing tackles similar subject matter with a sense of humor and a more mainstream, accessible tone. 

Asked about his decision to balance drama and comedy, Blumberg answered, "There were a couple reasons. When Mark Ruffalo and I were doing The Kids Are All Right, he kept saying the reason the movie works is because you have a little honey to make the medicine go down. So whether it’s the idea of a gay marriage or sex addiction, I think it’s really helpful to liven these movies with humor. The other part of it is, when I would go to these meetings, people would say, 'If you’re gonna try to capture this, don’t just make us these grim, sour and dour guys in trench coats. We are real people and these meetings are funny, and the stuff we go through is often hysterical. You’ve got to capture both, that’s your mandate.' So I felt it was incumbent upon me to capture all the different shades of it. I think it’s easier for people to get into the story and follow these characters as they go into these dark places if they’ve invested in them often through comedy."

Oscar-winner Paltrow has worked in virtually every type of contemporary genre, but the appeal of this particular project wasn't its use of generic convention.  Instead, it was the character of Phoebe, as she explained, "I loved the script when I read it, but one of the things I really was interested in is that she is a person who is holding all these judgments, and all of these judgments have helped her make this construct around herself. Through compassion and empathy and a situation she never would’ve imagined herself in, she starts to understand and have real self-awareness and reflectiveness. I think it’s such an amazing and essential human process to be brave and start to address your own shit. Mark Ruffalo’s shit looks dirtier, but actually it’s all the same and I thought that was a really interesting piece."

Her co-star Ruffalo was not present for the press conference, but the actor's outstanding reputation was upheld by his co-stars. "I hated him," Gad said with a laugh. "No just kidding. Mark is so extraordinary onscreen because he is so extraordinary in real life. He really is one the most giving actors I’ve ever met and he just loves to play. He loves to find it in the moment with you, which is all you can ask for as an actor. He is as unbelievably charismatic in real life as he is onscreen."

"Mark and I did a really classic movie together a long time ago that was shockingly snubbed by the Oscars called A View from The Top," Paltrow joked, alluding to the 2003 comedy. "I had an amazing time working with him then and we have good chemistry and it was very easy. He’s a lovely man and an excellent actor. I loved every minute of it."

"He was very supportive for me as the new guy," said Moore. "For me it was fun to watch those three guys, the boys club, because you didn’t have to say anything. They just had this incredible rapport with each other which was really fun to see. That was one of my favorite parts."

Better known by her stage name of Pink, or P!nk if you prefer, Moore is a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter who has made an indelible mark on the popular culture over the last thirteen years.  Her well-known public persona has, up until now, limited the types of roles with which she has been associated.  She said, "Until this I had scripts that were as a convict or a runaway, the girl that beats somebody up, the girl that stops somebody from being beat up or Janis Joplin. I was waiting for a part in Saved but that didn’t happen."

Though Thanks for Sharing follows characters largely defined by their struggles with sex addiction, Blumber said that the subject matter doesn't limit the film thematically. "Well I think perhaps this movie can also be useful for people who are not necessarily suffering from it. Fundamentally, I just wanted people to be able to identify with all facets of all the characters and to not allow people to make quick or snap judgments about them."

On the subject of compulsive sexual behavior, Robbins was largely unfamiliar before this role.  "I didn’t think too much about it. I didn’t think it was much of a problem until I started talking to sex addicts," he said. "And I was lucky enough to go to a meeting and see the courage it took these (mostly) men to address the issues and acknowledge how detrimental the addiction has been to their lives. What’s inspiring about this is that there are people out there with these terrible afflictions that are working, working, working to overcome them, and that’s something I truly admire."

Naturally, the question of addiction led everybody to discuss their own addictions.  "Food has always been my addiction and that’s maybe something that goes to my happy place," said Gad. "I’m working on it. I’ve been doing the Pink diet which is just Cirque du Soleil acrobats in my home and it’s been working great.

"I’ve been lucky that cigarettes are the worst," Robbins added. "I fucking hate them, but I’m addicted."

"When I was younger I used to do a lot of naughty things and I’ve seen all of it. I’ve lost a lot of friends," Moore said. "I think the first funeral I went to was when I was thirteen. That’s part of what drew me to this; I believe that addiction is addiction regardless of the form it takes and I can empathize and see the pain that it causes everybody whether you’re the person going through it or if it’s someone you love. It’s all around us."

Regardless of the behavior or substance that has a person in its thrall, Blumberg explained, Thanks for Sharing is intended to illuminate how we overcome these issues communally, saying, "I think that, even apart from sex addiction, which is the prism through which the movie is told, the thing I really wanted to capture was the fact that whenever we go through a hardship, it’s easier to go through it with people. Often it’s easiest to go through it with people who are going through the same thing, so that was really message I wanted to convey. The idea is that we all may be broken, but if were broken together than we have a chance."

Thanks for Sharing is now playing at a theater near you.

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