Monday, April 15, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Sessions (2012) ***½

R, 95 min.
Director: Ben Lewin
Writers: Ben Lewin, Mark O’Brien (article “On Seeing a Sex Surrogate”)
Starring: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Moon Bloodgood, Adam Arkin

If you look at movies today, you’d never know people had sex. Or at least you’d have no idea exactly what the physical act of love involved. “The Sessions” is a film that addresses sex in terms that even the filmmakers of the 70s never really explored. It tells the true story of a man in an iron lung who yearns to have a sexual experience before he dies. It’s really only natural.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Mark O’Brien’s journey to have sex is that his primary source of advice comes from a priest. I had a college roommate who was called to serve the lord and this is the type of clergyman I would expect him to be. Played with full amicability by William H. Macy, he understands that while the church’s stance on sex outside of marriage is firmly in the negative, there are certain circumstances to which no set of rules can apply. “I think He’ll give you a pass on this one,” he says to this man desperately trying to understand his own body in respect to his religion and his difficult life circumstances.

Helen Hunt plays a sex surrogate, who approaches her clients on a very business-like level. Sex is not just a business to her, but a therapy for those who require her unique services. There are differences between her and a prostitute and Hunt makes those differences very clear. Moon Bloodgood also plays an important role as one of Mark’s nurses. She’s hired just as he’s beginning to explore his options for sex. While at first she seems shocked by his desire, she soon understands his reasons better than anyone else in his life. She is never an object of his desires put provides necessary support in his quest and an important window into how we all approach sexual experiences for him.

Despite Mark’s unfortunate physical situation, the movie is quite funny. It rarely bogs down in emotional weight, although I do feel Hunt’s character gets unnecessarily attached to Mark before all is said and done. If you can handle frank but enlightening discussions on sex, “The Sessions” is a joyful experience that provides some good laughs and some good life.

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