Even if we've never been to a 12-step meeting, an intelligent script and sharp performances help us see ourselves in these characters and situations. The film may sometimes get a little preachy, but writer-turned-director Blumberg (The Kids Are All Right) strikes a terrific balance between comedy and drama.
At the centre is Adam (Ruffalo), who has just passed the five year mark in his battle against sex addiction. His sponsor Mike (Robbins) is proud of him, but he and his wife (Richardson) have their own issues since their ex-addict son (Fugit) has just returned home. Meanwhile, Adam is sponsoring Neil (Gad), who was court-ordered to attend rehab and doesn't take his addiction seriously until he gets to know Dede (Moore aka P!nk), a fellow rebel in the group. Then out in the real world Adam meets Phoebe (Paltrow) and has an instant spark of attraction. But as their relationship develops, he knows he'll have to tell her about his addiction.
The script is very tightly constructed to explore the topic from several angles through a handful of characters and sideplots. But while this may feel a bit tidy, Blumberg keeps everything grounded in honest experience. So the comedy is edgy and surprising, while the dramas avoid the usual cliches, never going quite where we expect them to as Blumberg and the cast explore the deep flaws all of these people have. So we can cheer for their small victories and sympathise with their failures. And each actor is excellent.
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There's plenty of potential for jagged black humour in this suburban comedy-drama, but the filmmakers never take a single risk. So with its soft and simplistic approach, the movie is never as quirky or hilarious as it should have been, or as the filmmakers seem to think it is. The only pleasure in watching it comes through understated touches the gifted cast members manage to inject here and there. And what a great cast!
It's set in West Orange, New Jersey, where two families have been best friends for decades. David and Paige Walling (Laurie and Keener) have two grown children: Vanessa (Shawkat) lives at home while Toby (Brody) drops in to visit every now and then. Across the street are the Ostroffs, Terry and Carol (Platt and Janney), whose wayward daughter Nina (Meester) is home for Thanksgiving. Everyone thinks a romance between Toby and Nina would be wonderful. But as the Wallings try to work out some marital problems, it's David who drifts into a transgressive affair with Nina. Which sends these long-time friendships into spiralling chaos.
The plot is so perfectly suited to a black comedy that we wonder what happened along the way. Director Farino smooths every edge, instead straining for silly farce that leads to some sort of emotional catharsis. But he fails to recognise that these people are all intelligent adults, so the fallout from David and Nina's fling feels contrived and obvious. The script also never makes us feel like they are doing anything besides reacting to their previous relationships: this isn't real love, so why should we care?
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