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Something to watch tonight: Tuesday 14 November
The Sessions (Lewin, 2012)
Eleven years ago this week I reviewed Ben Lewin’s lovely film The Sessions for the Capital Times and I described it as “… the best film about therapy since Good Will Hunting and one of the best films about anything this year.”
Poet Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes) was crippled with polio as a child and forced to spend more than 20 hours a day in an iron lung, practising his craft with a pencil held between his teeth, relying on caregivers for – almost – every important bodily function. Although he spent his life horizontal he wasn’t paralysed and he could still feel everything that was done to his body – a fact that a pretty nurse giving him his daily wash could probably testify to… As a red-blooded American male in his 30s, his head could get turned by a shapely figure even though his inexperience and disability meant he was totally lacking in romantic confidence.
To complicate matters still further, his Catholic faith also provided him with the traditional guilt complex, although it did introduce him to a local priest (William H. Macy) who could minister to his increasingly tortured soul. A counsellor introduces Mark to the idea of a sex surrogate – a therapist specialising in helping clients get over sexual problems and hangups. He wants to lose his virginity before he dies but the church won’t sanction sex outside wedlock. What’s a guy to do?
After a moment’s consideration, kindly Father Brendan predicts that God would probably give Mark a free pass in this case, not realising that this blessing means that he’s going to get a blow by blow (so to speak) account of the therapeutic process. The physical ministrations are provided by Helen Hunt’s Cheryl, a registered sex therapist and a soul so sensitive to Mark’s situation that frankly every man should be lucky enough to have such a coach.
Going back to check the details of this review, I discover that writer/director Ben Lewin is himself a polio survivor and requires crutches to get around. A true labour of love, then.
Also featuring in that week’s review are Richard Gere in the Wall Street thriller Arbitrage, Australian 3D shark movie Bait, and the James Patterson adaptation Alex Cross about which I wrote:
On arrival at the always friendly Empire Cinema in Island Bay on Saturday for Alex Cross, when offered a free cup of coffee I replied “that’s worth an extra half star”. So, as a man of my word – not to mention someone who doesn’t normally deal in star ratings – I am obliged to give Alex Cross half a star. But if you need a second opinion, I can report that as the closing credits rolled my companion leaned over and said “that was the worst. film. ever.”
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Where to find The Sessions
Aotearoa, Australia and the UK: streaming on Disney+
USA: Digital rental
Over at RNZ, I’ve just done a quick survey of three minor David Fincher films to see if they allow us to think of him as an auteur (in the traditional sense): The Game, House of Cards (pilot) and Mank.