Title: The Sessions
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Director: Ben Lewin
William H. Macy
W. Earl Brown
John Hawkes is the latest late bloomer of the coterie in Hollywood, thanks to the instant fame after WINTER’S BONE (2010) and MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (2011), he finally landed a once-of-a-lifetime leading role (the closest chance he got in his past underrated career is Miranda July’s cuddly gem ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW 2005), although merciless being shut down by the academy members’ recognition albeit the wicked scheme of leading-lady-goes-supporting works again in favor of his co-star Hunt, sometimes the reality sucks, and the same could be empathized by the film’s protagonist Mark in the beginning, a paralyzed 38-year-old virgin seeks for his first full-fledged sexual intercourse with a sex surrogate Cheryl (Hunt) during six sessions (with a high-demanding mutual orgasm as the culmination).
Adapted by a true story (I know it’s a cardboard statement since it is irrelevant to the viewers), this blithely-paced, well-intentioned indie film peddles its sex-centered gambit with intimate delicacy, the curiosity of peeping other people’s sex life is subliminally enticing (plus Hawkes and Hunt are graceful in their naked forms), what’s more is when the usual dominant role of male has been nailed to an almost inclusive immobility, the comical nuance is brimful, but director/writer Ben Lewin neither exploits the racy material, nor unseemly dishes out condescending sympathy to the disabled’s restrained inconvenience. Maybe it is a whitewashed version of the reality, but the perspective of the film is unflaggingly confined to be personal and accessible, Mark’s interaction with Cheryl has been meticulously acted through each session (while most of them ended with premature ejection), when sex is so pure and without any smutty context, it is a true communication of two good-hearted souls, their mutual affections are genuine. Every line and tiny gesture (in the case of Mark, it is his expressions) bespeaks a sense of authenticity from the two great thespians.
Hawkes challenges Mathieu Amalric (THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY 2007) in the body paralyzed, mind knife-sharp mode of acting, also due to the frequent naked scene, he twists his body to expose itself to the resemble a distorted spine, great homework has been done even before embody the mind of his character. Hunt is great as well, I hold no grudge to her but the fact of the category fraud, on the contrary, it is comforting to see her to swagger in a belated comeback, she radiates with warmth and zest as a woman has an unorthodoxy job with a family behind, the plucky nude scenes aside, her part of involvement is equally sincere and subtly hinted, as we may refer “ as good as it gets”. William H. Macy undertakes a sidelined role as the priest-and-friend of Mark, episodically gives some conventional advice and support with his unconventional appearance which may be a far cry from anyone has a priesthood background.
The film finishes with a farewell mass held for Mark, 3 women have entered his life and loved him in their own ways, an emblem of trinity fulfills his journey, and as a second-hand poet, his love letter may elicit a soul-touching sentimentality, but his iron-lung supported life has never been less meaningful than any of other healthy ones, the film, with no bombastic ambition, has done a practical job and sublimated its real-life fodder to a ruminating curio worth of introspection and high esteem. A fine piece of comedy offers more than expected.