Friday, September 20, 2013


Opening this weekend:

The Wizard of Oz—For many Americans of my generation, The Wizard of Oz was an annual event, usually shown on TV on Easter Sunday. Many of us watch it now unconsciously mouthing the dialogue and lyrics along with the actors. But seeing it blown up for the IMAX screen—as it will be, for a one-week release opening September 20—brings new meaning to the familiar “See it again for the first time.”

I’ve seen the film dozens of times over the years, but I was struck by how many details from MGM’s extravagant 1939 fantasy based on L. Frank Baum’s novel I had never caught before: The crowned crane and the toucan in the background of the scene with the talking trees, the bric-a-brac in Professor Marvel’s carriage, the costumes on the Munchkins. The performances of Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Frank Morgan, Burt Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke and Margaret Hamilton—it was the finest hour for almost all of them—remain joyous, as do the sometimes darkly comic songs of Harold Arlen, but the real winner in this new version is Toto. On the IMAX screen, he’s the size of a Shetland pony, and his expressive performance gets across. He’s no longer just a fuzzy little smudge, like he was on our black-and-white TV screens half a century ago.

Thanks For Sharing—This comedy-drama follows three Manhattan guys at different stages of recovery from sex addiction: a veteran contractor, Mike (Tim Robbins) whose lifestyle revolves around 12-Step meetings, his younger “sponsee” Adam (Mark Ruffalo), a hotshot businessman who’s been faithfully “working the program,” and Adam’s sponsee Neil (Josh Gad) a young wreck of an ER doctor who hasn’t even really admitted he has a problem. Other characters are woven into the story, like Adam’s new girlfriend (Gwyneth Paltrow) from whom he’s hidden his addiction, Mike’s son (Patrick Fugit), a former drug abuser, and a young woman (Alecia Moore, aka Pink), new to the program, with whom Neil bonds.

Carol Kane contributes a funny but disturbing turn as Neil’s Mom, and Joely Richardson is quietly powerful as Mike’s battle-hardened wife. It’s a smallish role, but in her unshowy way Richardson gives maybe the best performance in the film.

While there’s little consensus in the real-life psychological and medical fields as to what constitutes sex addiction, or if it even exists, the movie, the directorial debut of the gifted screenwriter Stuart Blumberg (The Kids Are All Right, Keeping the Faith), seems to take at face value the 12-Step Model as the answer to it. Whether you agree with this or not, Blumberg does get across the desperation with which these men are containing themselves, and the added difficulty they face in getting others to accept their destructive behavior as pathological rather than just a character flaw—horniness crossed with reckless self-indulgence.

Blumberg makes good, rueful comedy out of the unavoidable ubiquity of sexual stimulation in modern culture, and he gets fine performances from his cast. As the droll, self-loathing Neil, young Gad, in particular, steals much of the flick from his accomplished co-stars.

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