Sunday, March 17, 2013

Movie Review: The Sessions (2012)

The Sessions movie posterThe Sessions (2012) - Written and Directed by Ben Lewin; Starring John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy.

By Kenny Howell

What is the difference between a sex surrogate and a prostitute?

That's not the set up for a joke, but rather one of the many questions you ponder as you watch the delightful The Sessions.

That question, which is probably on the forefront of people's minds who haven't seen this movie, is barely approached during the film. Helen Hunt's character, Cheryl, is a sex surrogate, a therapist who helps Mark (Hawkes), a man who spends most of his life in an iron lung, have his first sexual experience. Cheryl quickly dismisses the idea, saying that she is not a prostitute, she has nothing wrong with them, but what she does is different.

And it is. What Cheryl does with Mark is help him understand his body. He has no muscle control, but he has all the sensation. This makes him reach climax, sometimes on accident while not in a sexual act. Cheryl helps him learn how to control this, get in touch with his body, so he can experience something every human being should.

Hawkes (Life of Crime) was passed over for an Oscar nomination, which is a shame. Despite the obvious physical problems he had to incorporate into the performance, he is charming and really makes Mark into one of the more likable characters of the year. Hunt, who was nominated, fills Cheryl with so much warmth and compassion. She is just a terrific person, as are many of the people in the movie, which makes it a delightful watch.

Rating: ***1/2

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