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dir Stuart Blumberg
scr Stuart Blumberg, Matt Winston
prd Miranda de Pencier, David Koplan, Bill Migliore, Leslie Urdang, Dean Vanech
with Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins, Josh Gad, Joely Richardson, Alecia Moore, Patrick Fugit, Carol Kane, Michaela Watkins, Emily Meade, Poorna Jagannathan, Isiah Whitlock Jr
release US 27.Sep.13, UK 4.Oct.13
A pair of obsessives: Ruffalo and Paltrow
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
With the same smart comedy and drama as his The Kids Are All Right script, writer-cum-director Blumberg gets strong performances from a skilled cast. This helps us see ourselves in the characters and relationships even if we've never been to a 12-step meeting. It's a low-key gem that deserves awards-season attention.
Adam (Ruffalo) has just achieved five years of sobriety in his struggle with sex addiction. His sponsor Mike (Robbins) is quietly proud of him, although he's struggling with his wayward son Danny (Fugit), a drug addict who cleaned himself up without a support group. Meanwhile, Adam is sponsoring Neil (Gad), who's only in the group because the court forced him to go. Neil's not taking it very seriously until he meets rebel group member Dede (Moore). And when Adam has an instant spark with Phoebe (Paltrow), how can he tell her about his addiction?
Despite the collision of similar themes, the dramas feel truthful, as Blumberg refreshingly avoids the usual big traumas. It's the little things that niggle between these characters, including Mike and his long-suffering wife (Richardson). And the plot refuses to take the expected turns, keeping us on our toes by exploring these flawed characters' personal motivations, regrets and smaller victories. So the actors are easy to identify with.
Ruffalo shines as a nice-guy frightened that he can't outrun his past, and his spiky chemistry with Paltrow is often very funny. Although she's essentially playing the person we think she is in real life: a skeletal health-obsessive. Meanwhile, Robbins is terrific as the middle-aged man reluctant to admit that he doesn't have everything sorted out. And Gad gets the best scenes as the slacker who discovers the value of being proactive. His interaction with Moore (aka Pink) is great fun.
Blumberg directs unobtrusively, resisting the urge to play up in the characters' sexuality. Which means the only insight we gain is through the performances. The script strains to convince us that sex-addiction is a "disease", as if it's something you can catch. Recovery is an act of discipline, focus and tenacity rather than treatment. But the best thing about the film is how it reminds us that we need each others' help if we want to change anything about ourselves.
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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