Adam (Mark Ruffalo) ends a long dating dry spell with help from Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow) in Thanks for Sharing, which opens in theaters nationwide on Friday

Watching a movie about sex, like engaging in the act itself, is more fun if you can avoid distractions. Unfortunately, it’s hard to watch a new movie about sexual addiction without being distracted by memories of two earlier films.

The newcomer is Thanks for Sharing, directed and co-written by Stuart Blumberg. The first earlier film was The Kids Are All Right (2010), an unconventional family drama that also was co-scripted by Blumberg. The other was Shame (2011), a dark work about a man whose sexual addiction controlled his life.

Though Thanks for Sharing isn’t bad, it pales in comparison to these earlier films. It lacks the naturalness and unpredictability of the first, and it lacks the sheer power of the second.

Think of it as Shame Lite.

Set in Manhattan, the comedy-drama centers on three men who attend 12-step meetings in an attempt to control their dictatorial desires.

Adam (Mark Ruffalo, a welcome holdover from The Kids Are All Right) is so determined to avoid falling off the sexual wagon that he hasn’t dated in five years. Mike (Tim Robbins), his 12-step sponsor, is a married man who seems to have his life under control.

Neil (Josh Gad), Adam’s “sponsee,” is a doctor who has nothing under control, to the point that he can’t ride a subway without looking for opportunities to rub up against members of the opposite sex.

The leading men are all fine, as are most of their co-stars. What holds the film back is a script that treats an uncommon topic in all-too-common ways.

Adam’s long dating fast is broken when he meets the athletic Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow) and begins a relationship marked by breezy, rom-com-style patter. Mike’s image of perfection is dispelled when his long-estranged son suddenly reappears, leading to a familiar battle between a disapproving father and his resentful offspring.

Neil, who starts out as the biggest loser, begins a cute and unconvincingly uncomplicated trek toward redemption with help from a new 12-step gal pal, Dede (Alecia “Pink” Moore)—and with no help from his overbearing Jewish mother (an over-the-top Carol Kane).  

Besides the well-worn storylines, Thanks for Sharing suffers from attempts at humor that may seem out of place. Then again, your response might depend on how seriously you take sexual addiction as a psychological problem.

If you’re like Free Press sex authority Lady Monster, you suspect it’s overblown.

“Some people can be addicted to any kind of behavior that provides an escape,” she said, “but the number of people that are actually addicted to sex is nowhere near the number that are told they are.”

What some see as sexual addiction may simply be a high libido, Lady Monster explained, adding that the important question is whether it negatively affects one’s personal relationships, job or social activities.

“Most people answer ‘no’ to these questions,” she said.

RATING: 3 stars (out of 5)


Adam (Mark Ruffalo) ends a long dating dry spell with help from Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow) in Thanks for Sharing, which opens in theaters nationwide on Friday