Tiger Woods; Michael Douglas; Anthony Weiner; Russell Brand. Each claims to be a sex addict – but isn’t that just a celebrity’s excuse for acting like a pig? New York-based filmmaker Stuart Blumberg says no.
“In populations of deer where there’s no natural predator you notice they’ll basically over-indulge and over-populate, and then collapse,” he says. “Similarly, the reason you see a lot of instances of celebrity addiction is because fewer people are saying no to them, and the normal limits to society don’t apply.”
It was the seemingly endless round of scandals involving actors, sports stars and politicians that gave Blumberg and his co-writer Matt Winston (Oscar nominees for The Kids Are All Right) the idea for Blumberg’s directorial debut, Thanks for Sharing. “[Sex addiction is] a world that had never really been explored in movies, and I’m always looking for things that haven’t been done to death.”
Unlike Steve McQueen’s dark and despairing Shame – a movie Blumberg has hitherto actively avoided watching – Thanks for Sharing is an ensemble comedy about three men who attend a 12-step programme for their problem: Adam (Ruffalo), Mike (Tim Robbins) and Neil (Josh Gad).
Adam is an environmental consultant who has been ‘sober’ for five years. Because of his addiction he can’t own a laptop or a TV. When he begins dating an attractive fitness junkie, Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), he has to find a way of avoiding a relapse into destructive behaviours. “When you’ve taken something natural and created an unnatural compulsion around it, it takes a long time to re-wire the brain to have a new relationship,” Blumberg says.
Adam’s sponsor, Mike – also an alcoholic – is the recovery group’s patriarchal figure with 15 years of sobriety under his belt. His confidence is shaken when his estranged, addicted son (Patrick Fugit) reappears in his life. “The meetings always have ‘elders’ who are like big daddies – everyone looks up to them. And the challenge for them is to not get so cocky that they think they’re infallible.”
Representing the younger generation is Neil (Josh Gad), whose creepy habits include rubbing against women on the subway and ‘upskirting’. Neil doesn’t fit the stereotype of the sex pest. In fact, he’s an ER doctor. “Whenever you hear about smart people who are clearly damaging their careers and families, people are like, what were they thinking? But they’re not thinking. You can’t ask a drug addict why they steal money to buy drugs.”
In the film, Neil is able to help himself by helping others – namely another sex addict, Dede, played by Alecia Moore, aka Pink, in her first film acting role. “We had seen a number of kick-ass, take-no-prisoners kinds of women at meetings: on the outside seemingly tough but very sensitive and damaged on the inside. And we thought of Pink. We wrote it with her in mind, and when we heard she was up for doing it we were totally thrilled.”
Thanks for Sharing screens from Thu Oct 3.