|Hunt and Hawkes give two of 2012's best performances.|
Directed by Ben Lewin
Produced by Judi Levine, Ben Lewin, and Stephen Nemeth
Written by Ben Lewin (screenplay); Mark O'Brien (article)
Starring John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, Moon Bloodgood, Annika Marks, Rhea Pearlman, Adam Arkin, and William H. Macy
Inspired by a true story, this film follows a writer named Mark O'Brien (Hawkes), who is condemned to an iron lung for most of his days. Mark contracted polio and is only able to be out of the chamber for a few hours, so he is heavily dependent on a caregiver. What really weighs on him, though, is the fact that he is a virgin. He longs for physical contact and, despite the failure of his muscles, he can still become aroused on his own. So, he gets the approval of a priest (Macy) to see a sex therapist named Cheryl (Hunt) for six sessions. Through her, he learns about his body and develops his sexual knowledge, as it were. It's actually quite humorous, and the film shies away from being too serious, allowing only a few touching dramatic moments.
This is an interesting little film. It's probably too light in its approach to this situation, but the performances make this a must-see. John Hawkes is nothing short of amazing in a role that will likely land him his second Oscar nomination. The same can be said of Helen Hunt, who hasn't been around much lately. Both of these performances are transformative, with the actors never hitting a false note. Not once did I see Hawkes or Hunt in the film. Instead, I saw the characters. The actors are that good. Of course, Macy does what he can with a supporting comedic role, but Bloodgood deserves more attention as Mark's new caregiver. Really, the performances are quite good all round. Despite the superb acting, the film's light tone can at times feel exploitative or too insensitive to Mark's suffering. However, the film remains a bittersweet performance vehicle that merits a look, particularly for the excellent work from Hawkes and Hunt.
Oscar Potential: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress (Hunt), Best Adapted Screenplay