January 16, 2013

The Sessions (2012)

John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy


I've never been to the Sundance Film Festival, but this is exactly the type of movie I would expect to see there - heavy on dialogue and something people would categorize as "touching" or "heart warming." I put those words in quotes because I feel like they have become so cliché in describing a movie, but... well, words and phrases become clichés for a reason - this movie is touching. A lot more so than one would expect. Especially considering how funny it is. It squeezes into that tiny genre of movies that manage to hit the range of emotions from funny to sad. Add to that the fact that it's based on a true story - who doesn't love that?

The entire movie is about sex. Except that it's not. This movie is so good because of its ability to create a subplot that connects with people without having to come right out and say it. If it were just a movie about sex, it could have ended up as some lame sequel to Sex Drive or something. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a number of high pedigree actors in it. Everyone in it does a really great job, including [the very randomly included] Moon Bloodgood. I only mention her because her name is fun to say. And to say I think she vaguely resembles Tia Carrere. And no, I don't think all Asians look alike.

I must include some praise for John Hawkes, whom I spent the entire movie trying to mentally place. I imagine it's especially difficult to play characters with disabilities (which is probably why the Academy is always extra eager to nominate those who do take on those roles), but he does an excellent job of carrying it through. I mean, he even manages to sound short of breath for much of the movie - a small, but important detail for believability as a person who uses an iron lung to breathe. If we're going to get technical, I would use this attention to detail to argue a better performance by Hawkes here than Hugh Jackman and his lack of a French accent in Les Mis. (Not that any of that matters - I have yet to see Lincoln but I'm sure Daniel Day Lewis will win.)

While I don't necessarily have a problem with Helen Hunt, I've never really warmed to her. For one thing, she makes some really stupid movies - As Good as It Gets, What Women Want, Pay It Forward, off the top of my head. (Seriously?!? An Oscar for As Good as It Gets? Why? How? Just because she had to make out with Jack Nicholson?) I mean, I don't dislike her, but she's not someone I would have put at the top of my list to see naked in a movie. That being said, kudos to her. She's almost 50 years old! I swear, my jaw dropped when she stripped down. Aside from the sheer shock of full frontal nudity (can you tell I'm not European?), I couldn't believe how amazing her body looked for someone of that age. Scratch that - I would be happy to look like that now!

But in all seriousness, her role is much deeper than just getting naked and having sex, which makes me feel like her Oscar nomination is justified. (Ahem, Halle Berry, I'm talking to you. Pretending to have sex with Billy Bob Thornton on camera, while commendable, does not warrant an Oscar win. Sorry.) Helen Hunt really does a good job of helping the movie be about more than just sex. Which is ironic, considering her role completely revolves around sex. Sadly, it won't matter because Anne Hathaway has the Best Supporting Actress win [rightfully] sewn up. But I feel this role was much more worthy of critical attention than stupid As Good as It Gets. (Ugh, sorry, I just really hate that movie.)

Final word: If listening to Sue Johanson makes you uncomfortable, this is not the movie for you.

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