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The Sessions

the sessions

John Hawkes, one of my favorite working actors, stars in “The Sessions” as a quadriplegic who decides that before he dies, he wants to experience sex.  William H. Macy is the catholic priest who tells him he doesn’t think God would mind.  Helen Hunt is the sex therapist/surrogate who makes it possible.

At first blush it’s an interesting setup, but it turns out to be less interesting than it seems.  “The Sessions” just feels like every other movie about a disabled person trying to do something impossible – climb a mountain, run a race, graduate college – except the thing this disabled person is trying to do is have sex, so there’s lots of nudity and “naughty talk.”  I don’t think that’s enough to make it an interesting movie.

What Macy can’t tell Hawkes is that any sex he has is likely to be a disappointing and emotionally messy experience.  Our culture so glorifies sex that there’s just no way anyone can live up to the experience, and regardless of how professional Helen Hunt the sex therapist is, there’s bound to be complications.  The film takes a few half-hearted stabs at this, but it always feels underdeveloped.  Perhaps a more interesting, emotionally complex and resonant movie could’ve been made out of this material, but director Ben Lewin seems far too devoted to making sure we laugh at the awkwardness, gawk at the boobs, and cheer when they finally achieve mutual orgasm to really explore where it could go.

Verdict: Not Recommended.  If you want to watch a film about a paralyzed man achieving something remarkable, watch “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” instead.

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