Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Sessions; The Unexpected

I went to a screening of The Sessions last night.  I felt hesitant. I knew the gist of the storyline - a severly disabled man who lives most of his life in an iron lung seeks out a professional sex surrogate to help him lose his virginity. It's not the content of the film that made me wary, it was simply my mood - you know "I don't feel like seeing that" when you review the dvds in a redbox or flip through the channel guide. And every time - EVERY SINGLE TIME - I am reminded not to listen that mood of mine or any pre-conceived ideas I have about said film because do I know what is really in store for me? Do I really have any clue what kind of experience I might have? No, and it could be a brilliant one, so why deny myself this possibility?

John Hawkes and Helen Hunt.  John is one of those actors we always like when we see him pop up on screen, but we can't remember his name, we only know he was GREAT in that one movie....(what the heck was it? Oh, Winter's BONE!).  He looks like a less attractive cousin of Joaquin Phoenix and he is cast as such. He is a wonderfully real, risky actor who invests in the full creativity of each role. In "The Sessions", he embodies Mark O'Brien, a poet/journalist who was held horizontally captive by polio since age 6. He lives most of his time in an iron lung, but can be out and about for three to four hours with a portable respirator. He calls people, types on a typewriter, and carries out simple tasks with a mouthstick.  John Hawkes's performance is going to draw a Best Actor nom, mark my words with that mouthstick.

Helen Hunt may get nominated as well (Supporting) for her brave (aka 'naked') performance. No, I really do think its quite fricking brave when a woman is nude for more screen time than she is dressed. When asked what her thoughts or concerns were when considering the role, she said "I read the script and when I turned the final page I knew that this was a role I wanted to play; that this story was a rare, beautiful thing. I didn't worry about the nudity at all." NO, she didn't.  She boldly tackled the role as a professional (on and off screen) and the audience loved it. We loved her work with Mark O'Brien, we loved their connection, we loved the edges they blurred and some they crossed and we loved the frank treatment of sex. I had a Deep-Throated Cackler sitting behind me the whole screening (that is a woman, not a bird) - just LOVING the film.

The film was wonderfully structured; incredibly playful, humorous and sensitively brazen around such complex matters like sex, disabilities, psychology, & Catholicism.  And by the way, every character was used intelligently by Ben Lewin, the director.  I loved Moon Bloodgood - I will be watching her from now on. She gave a thoughtful yet straightforward supporting performance.

This film may get a nomination for Best Picture, too. I hope so. It deserves it.

Lastly, this film was based on an article written by Mark O'Brien entitled "On Seeing a Sex Surrogate". Warning: it is very graphic. There is also an Academy Award winning documentary short on Mark from 1996 called "Breathing Lessons". You can watch it HERE.

Now, a trailer.

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