The Sessions (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

The Sessions (2012)

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I've been busy lately. I try not to show it, but between wrapping up my first semester of grad school, starting a new job, traveling, the holidays, my laziness, and the ever-present threat of my wife wanting to spend time with me, getting to the theater has become more of a struggle lately than I nominally enjoy.

Things aren't helped a whole lot when I see something along the line of The Sessions, one of those movies that's sold as a crowd pleaser in the desperate hope to draw a crowd. It's a pointed bubble of fluff, carefully saying nothing about important things while pretending that those important things are what the film's really about.

Take the character William H. Macy plays, essentially 'dude priest'. How does this man function in a church setting? His only role in the movie is to assuage paraplegic Mark's guilt about experimenting with sexual intercourse. His character should walk a tricky line between faith, guilt and hope, but instead comes off as a pervert who's all for it as long as he gets to live vicariously through Mark's sexual exploits.

"I won't take this... LAYING DOWN!"(laugh track)

My wife, since I mentioned her before, likes to point out that I have a streak in me known as 'Dad Humor'. These are usually corny jokes that I throw off that are a little dirty and a little goofy and are meant to be funny in the fact that someone made the joke rather than on their own merits. That's the ninety minutes of The Sessions, with most of the wry 'oh, hey, handicapped people get laid too' schtick getting nudged so hard in the ribs it's amazing they don't break off.

Mark is played by John Hawkes, and the role shows that he can be properly emaciated when the job calls for it. He is aided by his fears by a sex therapist played by Helen Hunt who will, yes, have sex with the patient to help them overcome their fears. This sounds like a recipe for trouble since Hollywood hasn't made a movie yet that involved a couple entering sexual intimacy and exiting with nothing but complete apathy towards each other. (Mental note: make that movie)

"Are you nervous about my breasts, Mark?" "Nervous? I'm absolutely PARALYZED." (laugh track)

Helen Hunt is fearless here, with fearless again being a codeword for 'gets naked a whole lot'. For as much as the film talks about penises (or 'dicks' in its nomenclature), it's terrified of putting one on screen and therefore unpleasing the crowd. For all of Mark's talk about guilt, it's never more than a breezy sidenote on the way to more cripple jokes.

But the jokes don't last since this is following Independent Movie 101 formula, and it ends with bittersweet goodbyes and a bizarre flash forward that comes out of nowhere and wrecks the film's little momentum to that point. Everyone learns something, whether it's that crippled people have emotions too, or that some guys can get a woman to simultaneous orgasm on the second try, or that really bad poetry is best drowned out by chintzy music.

But I'll be damned if the movie's morals still don't bug me. IsĀ The Sessions liberal because it suggests some people need to have sex before they get married in order to stop being afraid of intimacy? Or is it ultimately conservative since it's about how people find that marriage is the only satisfying thing they have in heir lives, and stick to it in spite of stronger feelings elsewhere?

"Going down?" "Well, I sure can't GET UP!" (laugh track)
"That's not funny, I have polio! My life is an unending series of pain, loneliness, frustrations and sadness!
... Hello? Hello???"

The film's based on a true story, though I wished it'd picked something a bit more true to do with it. This one is something akin to Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but with more dick jokes.

I presume at least. Busy, busy, busy.

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Posted by Danny

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