Friday, November 2, 2012

The Sessions

What's the difference between a sex surrogate and a prostitute?  (No, sorry, that's not an opener for a dirty joke.)

Based on a true story, John Hawkes plays a man stricken with polio who sleeps and lives most of his waking hours in an iron lung.  He cannot move from the neck down but still has full sensation in his body.  And now, as he approaches 40, more than ever he wants to know what it's like to have sex.  Enter Helen Hunt, a sex surrogate.

With that premise, this film could have gone any way.  It could have been a silly comedy or a corny melodrama.  But it's not either.  It's sweet, honest, funny, serious, and painfully awkward in all the right ways.  Hawkes ('Martha Marcy May Marlene', 'Winter's Bone', 'Me and You and Everyone We Know') consistently proves himself a great lead with a huge range.  Hunt gives a truly fearless performance.  And William H. Macy, playing a down-to-Earth priest who offers Hawkes his advice and his friendship, can make any role, big or small, a memorable one.  See it.

Grade: A-

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