“We’re All Gwyneth Paltrow”*
Mark Ruffalo plays Adam, a fastidious recovering sex addict — with 5 years of “sexual sobriety” under his belt. His first chance at true romance comes in the form of Phoebe, a neurotic bad-boy magnet played by Gwyneth Paltrow.
Being pansexual, you’d think I’d be less of a cliché. I guess I’m a poser. I mean, I’d like to believe that I’m this super-progressive and cool guy, but my tastes are really quite provincial. While my romantic attractions are not limited to “straight” cisgender women (or bi/curious cisgender men), the roles I expect in a relationship are really very basic. When I’m with a woman, I expect her to cook, clean and be an expert at laundry and ironing. I’ll climb the ladders, kill the spiders, get her car fixed, take out the trash and check-out the scary noises in the middle-of-the-night. When I’m with a guy though, I expect him to do all of those manly things while I take care of the house, kiss his boo-boos and stay being cute.
Basically, I’m a basic white woman when I’m dating a guy, and a slightly misogynistic middle-aged man when I’m dating a woman (not in a caveman kind-of-way, but in a cute Spencer Tracy kind-of-way). I’ve never discussed this with anyone I’ve ever dated either. These roles have just been assumed. I didn’t even realize I was doing it until I saw Thanks for Sharing. It was during the time I dated The Bad Boy. He was into a lot of naughty things which I only found out about later on in our relationship — right before I ended things. I used to just think he was hanging out with his friends on nights when he’d come back to the apartment at 3am. I guess planning heists, being a merchie and getting rid of cars with problems in the trunk was a kind of friendship-bonding experience for him. I wish I was exaggerating or joking. Anyway, we were curled up on the couch, sharing a “first class flight” and watching Thanks for Sharing one night. It was during the time I had no idea what he was really up to, although when you date The Bad Boy you do have an inkling that that something’s going on…you just don’t know what. So we’re “flying through the voluminous plumes of clouds in his luxurious lounge and I have this fleeting epiphany. You know how when you’re “on a flight” and you suddenly just get it? I was literally like: “Oh my god, I’m Gwyneth Paltrow”.
*Not the actual Goop, but her characters in almost any movie about adult relationships. Like seriously, I was totes magotes Gywneth Paltrow in the film Two Lovers during college. To this day, I still drink Brandy Alexanders when I’m in a mood.
To be fair though, Paltrow is highly skilled at playing basic white women. She knows it too. The reason she consistently rates as an actor’s actor is because she knows her talents and she uses them well. Stella Adler teaches that our talent, as actors, lies in our choices. Paltrow has chosen iconic white, female characters that have resonated with a large section of the population. We’ve all seen Sliding Doors and can relate to it, because of Paltrow. Not only has she won major acting awards for her on-screen portrayals of white women, but she’s also been able to parlay those emotional connections with her audience into building her lifestyle empire at Goop.
In Thanks for Sharing, Paltrow is no different and she delivers on her talent. The film opens with a half-naked Adam (Mark Ruffalo) knelt down in prayer-position; and so we quickly learn that he’s a red-blooded American man who has subverted his default setting. Ruffalo’s character has reached a milestone of 5 years of “sexual-sobriety”. The gravity of his addiction is made apparent by how his disease leads him to fear being in close proximity to women, as well as sexualized imagery of women. It’s the reason he doesn’t take the subway, and why he can barely walk down the street without being overwhelmed by bikini-clad models on billboards. His sobriety is very important to him. Enter Phoebe (of course she’s named Phoebe). She’s the cool, down-to-earth white girl we all pretend to be when we’re around men we like. As Phoebe and Adam start dating and things become mores serious between them, he starts to wonder if he really likes her, or if he just desperately wants to bust-a-nut. He turns to his sponsor Mike (Tim Robbins) who advises him to tell Phoebe about his addiction. He doesn’t; and it’s interesting to note that, even though Adam subverts the typical white male stereotype throughout this movie, he still struggles with the main one: pride. Not having any information to go on, besides Adam’s wishy-washy behavior, Phoebe starts to think that there must be something wrong with herself. You see, while us basic white girls seem super-chilled, we actually have massive neurotic anxiety and emotional intimacy issues tethered beneath our boho-chic exterior.
Even though watching this movie with my person at the time gave me a strange trip, the comedic undertone of the film offered brilliant moments of brevity. Alecia Moore AKA Pink; and Josh Gad were hilarious throughout the film. They lit up the screen as Dede and Neil, respectively. I love Gad in roles like this. He was equally perfect as Josh in Love & Other Drugs. Considering the subject-matter, Thanks for Sharing, was still easy to watch. I think that’s how Paltrow has been able to bury herself deep into our psyches. She doesn’t go for shocking melodramatic roles where you can see her acting; she goes for roles where she disappears into her characters so well, that you start to think she’s actually like them in real-life. Who hasn’t emotionally over-indulged themselves at one point or another? Who hasn’t thought that the world revolved around them? In cinema, these questions are always played out by white women (under the gaze of the white male). Those white women end up serving as cultural avatars, which we use as a society, to find answers in our own lives.
Thanks for Sharing got me thinking about how we use our bodies in relation to the roles we think we should be playing in relationships. It helped me realize the deep implications our society’s expectations places on our bodies. When you’re in a relationship with someone, you are committing your time and — most importantly — your body to performing certain acts for someone else. Maybe the reason I’m able to find romantic “chemistry” with such a wide-range of people is because, my body doesn’t feel confined to one role. The same way I imagine I’d get bored with playing the same character every day of my life, I get bored with the idea of limited expressions of sexual orientation. Maybe I’m not pansexual after all. Maybe I’m full-on try-sexual. Aren’t all actors try-sexual? In Thanks for Sharing, it’s made clear how our culture conditions us to focus on another’s body in relation to ours; instead of on our own body in relation to itself. In other words, we create stories about our relationships based on how our lover behaves towards us, instead of setting the tone for our own stories through our own behavior. I don’t know. What am I even talking about? Maybe I’m too high on White Russian. Maybe its the centuries-long cultural indoctrination of skewed, hetero-normative gender roles that I have burned into my mind. While it’s easy to wax lyrical about higher-minded ideals; I’m still attracted to emotionally conflicted men with existential anxiety. I own that now. As basic white women we tend to play victim to our neuroses. Perhaps, Joely Richardson’s Katie has it all figured out when she tells Phoebe that we have to examine ourselves before worrying about our partners: “What about my side of the street? What are my issues that I have to deal with? After all, I picked an addict… Says something”.
See You Next Wednesday,
#gwyenthpaltrow #markruffalo #edwardnorton
Thanks For Sharing is a brilliant film that explores the impact that addiction and sobriety. These themes are largely explored through Adam, played by Mark Ruffalo. His Sex Addicts Anonymous sponsor Mike helps him navigate through his challenges with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Phoebe despite his own problems at home. With Edward Norton as an executive producer, you can expect a practically perfectly made film. Every scene is maximized to further the story. This is definitely worth multiple viewings.
BB – Big Budget – $20mil+
SB- Small Budget – $5mil+ (est.)
LB – Low Budget – $1 mil+
MB – Micro Budget – $250K+
NB – No Budget – <$50K
Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins, Joely Richardson, Josh Gad, Alecia Moore (Pink), Patrick Fugit, Isiah Whitlock, Jr
This film was made to be acted. The all-star cast is made up of actor’s actors who are famous for their great talent. Mark Ruffalo plays this adorbs, sensitive recovering addict for most of the film, and then turns into this ravenous, red-blooded sex freak. His transformation is seamless and it works because of the stellar acting abilities of is fellow cast members. Gwyneth Paltrow has developed a shorthand with her audience that’s easy to read and relate with. When her character Phoebe gives Adam a lap-dance, as a viewer you understand that she’s doing it for her own neurotic reasons. Every single scene is a masterclass in modern acting technique. It’s rare to watch a film where you can trust everyone on screen to the point where your suspension -of-disbelief is so great, that you feel like you’re watching real people that you know.
Charlie can be seen taking flights and acting like a thespian on Scribblebytes’ The Late Flight Show on YouTube. Click here to subscribe.
Episode referenced in blog: Actors are Trysexuals