By contrast, "Thanks for Sharing" is an ensemble piece juggling humor with sober observation of three men intent on overcoming their dependence on the pleasures of the flesh.
Making a technically polished directing debut, screenwriter Stuart Blumberg ("The Kids Are All Right") has in essence crafted the date-night version of the sexaholic's confessional.
While it doesn't crawl under the skin the way "Shame" did, this serio-comedy, with its name cast, offers a glossy portrait of New York as a playground of visual stimuli. Captured in crisp advertising imagery and singing colors by cinematographer Yaron Orbach, it's a metropolitan catwalk, a promo-reel for romance and desire.
All of that keeps "Thanks for Sharing" watchable and mildly entertaining, if overlong.
What stops the film from being more satisfying, however, is a problem with the way the central character's arc takes shape, and a key piece of miscasting. Bashing Gwyneth Paltrow has become a tired, easy sport that anyone can play. But her preening performance as Phoebe in an inconsistently drawn role here is a major intrusion.
A smart, soulful environmental consultant celebrating five years in recovery, Marc Ruffalo's Adam is carefully set up to give the film a core of emotional integrity.
When his sponsor, Mike (Tim Robbins), insists it's time for him to bite the bullet and start dating again, he conveniently meets Paltrow's Phoebe at a foodie bug-tasting evening.
Ruffalo gives a typically sensitive performance, both in his monastic adherence to the vigilant rules of sobriety and his wounded admission of defeat. But it's hard to remain invested in whether or not Adam and Phoebe work things out. He deserves better.
The film has more nuance and credibility in its secondary strands.
One concerns the progress of Neil (Josh Gad), a chubby young ER medic doing court-ordered SAA time for nonconsensual frottage.
Help comes, paradoxically, from Dede (Alecia Moore, better known as pop-punkster Pink), a tattooed tough girl. Moore proves a capable actor and a relaxed, enormously likable screen presence.
"Thanks for Sharing" (2 stars)
A story of addictions, with Mark Ruffalo giving a sensitive portrayal and Gwyneth Paltrow miscast as his love interest. Pop singer Pink capably plays a likeable tough girl.
Rated: R for language, sexual content.
Showing: Alderwood, Meridian, Thornton Place.
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