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“The Sessions” – Early Review (POSITIVE)

October 18, 2012

“The Sessions” (titled as earlier this year as “The Surrogate”) was a big hit at the Sundance Film Festival this year, no one in their right mind could have ever expected a movie about a man suffering from polio, whose never had sex in his entire life, decides to make it happen for himself for the first time, would be such a crowd pleaser. Last week I had the opportunity to attend a very small press screening for the film, and I have to say…I agree with the people.

Based on the incredible true story; at the age of 36, Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), a man who survive by using an iron lung, decides he no longer wishes to be a virgin. With the help of his therapist and his priest (William H. Macy), he contacts Cheryl Cohen-Greene (Helen Hunt), a professional sex surrogate and a typical soccer mom with a house, a mortgage and a philosophical hippy husband. The charming relationship evolves between Cheryl and Mark as she takes him on his journey to manhood by opening his mind to real world dilemmas he never thought he could endure.

Let me just say, that I am impressed by the physical performance of John Hawkes, as I am about the emotional. For an actor to basically be lying down 100% of the time and find a way to make his character come off brash, unknowingly rude, honest, empathetic, sad, energetic, and so on, is beyond me. This is a role that borderlines “My Left Foot” or “The Diving Bell & the Butterfly” territory, and Hawkes is a fully capable actor to pull off such a feat. I’ve seen quite a few impressive Best Actor potential performances this year, but I feel that Hawke is dangerously close to earn his very first win.

The movie takes some dangerous approaches here and there. You almost wonder if the movie weren’t a true story, would this film still be in good taste. Personally, I don’t think taste even matters, the story of a man who’s stuck in a position where he cannot receive a physical emotion on a metaphysical level, but decides that he’s not going to play the victim card, he’s going to do something about it, is inspiring to me. Sure, the audience will feel pity for him, but he doesn’t want pity, and personally they way I see it, he doesn’t think he needs it. He knows the situation he’s in, and for crying out loud, the man earned a master in poetry at Berkley for crying out loud!

The supporting players of William H. Macy, Helen Hunt, Moon Bloodgood, and Annika Marks make the film work as a whole, each character plays an important part towards Mark’s journey into manhood, as well as life itself. Macy provides insightful/humorous commentary and sort of breaks that taboo of a priest. Annika Mark’s role is important because she’s the catalyst that really gives Mark the drive to make this big change in his life, and her performance is endearing as well as heartbreaking. But, the biggest supporting props goes to Helen Hunt, who does the damn near incredible; physically leaving her comfort zone, and you know what? I’m not complaining there.

Are you willing to see “The Sessions”? Do NOT be put off that it’s a movie about a man with a physical disability, go into this movie with open arms, welcome it, it’s a loving, funny, and touching movie that will leave you smile up until the credits begin to scroll. It truly is a feel good film. 

GRADE: A

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