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DIRECTOR: Stuart Blumberg
CAST: Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Gwyneth Paltrow, Joely Richardson, Patrick Fugit, Josh Gad, Alecia Moore
CLASSIFICATION: 17 LNS
RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes
RATING: 3 stars (out of 5)
More rom than com, this well-meaning feature film directorial debut from the man who wrote The Kids Are Allright features some strong performances, but never quite makes any point.
It centres on three guys who have one thing in common – sex addiction has led them to the 12-step programme – and gives us a glimpse into how they support each other on the road to recovery.
Mark Ruffalo is Adam, a sex addict who has been on the wagon for five years but is now toying with the idea of starting a relationship with the very attractive Phoebe (Paltrow). Ruffalo brings an appealing vulnerability to the role, creating a relatable guy who acknowledges he has a problem, even if he never really delves into exactly what that is.
The driven and frankly over-achieving Adam hesitates when it comes to coming clean to the just-as-driven Phoebe, despite his sponsor Mike (Robbins) insisting that honesty is the way to go.
Then again, Mike, despite 15 years sober, still has his own issues to work through.
Mike’s wife, Katie (Richardson) provides a glimpse of the other side of the coin – the person who has to live with the addict. In answer to Phoebe’s doubts about where her relationship with Adam is going, Katie wonders aloud what it says about herself that she is attracted to a person with such huge issues . But that’s where it stops.
The third leg of this awkward triangle is Neil (Gad), a wise-cracking emergency doctor who loses his job because of his lack of impulse control. With his new friend Dede’s (Moore) support he tries to get to grips with his problem, but again, the detail is lacking.
So, too, the whole film picks at the issue of addiction and starts to ask questions, but then just peters out. It never really delves into the nasty side, merely sticking to the surface.
The Mike character is especially emblematic of this problem. Robbins goes to great lengths to create this man who tells other people how to go through the 12-step programme, yet he appears not to have actually done this himself because he still has not resolved his estrangement from his son (Patrick Fugit).
Alecia Moore, aka Pink, makes her acting debut in this rom-com and it turns out it she just might have a future doing this. She is a natural in front of the camera, creating an engaging character who knows she has a problem, but doesn’t quite know what to do about it. Strangely enough she isn’t featured on the otherwise strongly reflective soundtrack.
The film does have some comedic moments and funny original dialogue, but for the most part it’s more serious than not. In the second half especially Blumberg (who co-wrote this script) goes heavy on the drama.
Eventually what starts off as a detailed multiple narrative scuppers itself because there isn’t enough time and room to delve into the well-created characters – so we only ever get a pretty picture.
If you liked, Shame or The Kids are All Right, you will like this.