Listening to Addiction: The Music of ‘Thanks for Sharing’

By  · Published on September 19th, 2013

Telling the story of a sex addict is no easy task, especially when it involves his first real relationship since becoming sober. The music for such a story has to hit the various notes of a person going through the transition of recovering addict to stable boyfriend – and do so while dancing around the question of whether or not this transition is even possible.

Mark Ruffalo takes on the role as Adam, a five years sober sex addict, by making him a mix of confidence and humility. Christopher Lennertz’ score follows suit sounding confident at times, but also ebbing into a more reserved tone when the theme calls for it.

Adam is a Type-A personality who lives in a beautiful apartment in Manhattan and seems to have his entire life together. The classical music that plays as the film begins certainly reflects this, but as the music gets more staccato, it becomes clear that there is more to Adam then first meets the eye as the true depth of his disease is revealed.

Thanks for Sharing tackles some serious issues, but it’s not all doom and gloom.

Adam’s sponsor Mike (Tim Robbins) is a clear support system for him, but one that does not let him get off easy and pushes him to use his success in recovery to put himself back out there and begin dating again. And in true movie magic fashion, Adam hosts a gathering at his apartment where he meets the lovely Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow). Elvis Costello’s “Let Me Tell You About Her” plays over their meet-cute and the classic, slightly old school sounding song is the perfect reflection of Adam’s mentality going into this flirtation – a man who has almost become “old school” in his desire to take things slow and ease his way back into the world of dating. Unfortunately Adam is living in 2013 where “courtships” are not always played by the rules, and outgoing the Phoebe is certainly doesn’t follow any.

Director Stuart Blumberg makes an interesting choice during Adam and Phoebe’s first kiss by having the sound drown out everything as their lips meet, creating a visceral effect that brings you into Adam’s mindset as he begins to let his guard down, but more importantly, allows himself to be touched intimately by a woman for the first time in five years. The sound does not fade back in until the kiss breaks and Adam comes back to reality with this slight change in the sound design working as a subtle cue that Adam’s perfectly orchestrated life is beginning to change. Lennertz’s smart score also begins to stray from the classical elegance we heard in the beginning, building on those tones, but introducing new musical elements into them.

Adam is not the only one dealing with changes as Thanks for Sharing also tells the stories of fellow group members Mike, Neil (Josh Gad), and Dede (Alecia “Pink” Moore) and their various stages of recovery. Adam’s life may be in an upswing, but Neil is struggling and Lennertz’s otherwise uplifting score darkens slightly when it comes to Neil’s journey on tracks such as “I’m Scared and I Need Help” with the music reflecting the vulnerability Neil is experiencing. But the track still ends with a light strum that works as a subtle hint that in recovery, low points are actually turning points. While Neil begins to seek real help, Adam begins battling with past demons. The score goes completely dark during these moments on tracks such as “Descent and Relapse” and “Darkness” where the electronic elements Lennertz introduces truly reflect someone fighting against elements they cannot control.

The mix of score and placed music creates a layered sonic landscape with Lennertz’s score directly reflecting the characters and the placed songs, such as the Costello track mentioned earlier and The Heavy’s “How Do You Like Me Now?,” helping to lighten the mood and infuse lyrics into moments where the characters struggle to fully express themselves. Kathryn Gallagher’s “Damaged” sings, “Are we too damaged to love like we did before?” and plays over a poignant scene between Adam and Phoebe, but can certainly apply to any of the film’s characters. The song fits perfectly into the narrative, but Gallagher, surprisingly, did not write the song for the film saying, “It’s so exciting to see how it translates from a song I wrote for myself, to accompany a completely new and beautiful story,” proving the power of music and how it can be re-imagined through a new art form.

Lennertz’ score is as dynamic as Thanks for Sharing’s characters and evolves from classic beginnings to a cacophony of abrasive electronic elements while the placed songs add texture and lyrics where words are unable to be expressed by the characters. But it’s also laudable that Thanks for Sharing was able to cast a well-known singer without also putting her on the film’s soundtrack.

Both the soundtrack and score for Thanks for Sharing are available through Milan Records.