Thursday, October 25, 2012

Not Buying It

The Sessions       Final Cut Score: 73%

While the disrespect the Academy dealt Drive last February is amongst the biggest Oscar fails ever, there was another omission that was nearly as shameful. John Hawkes masterful portrayal of a sinister cult leader in the ridiculously underrated Martha Marcy May Marlene was without question worthy of a supporting nomination. Now I realize the guy got a nom the year prior for Winter's Bone but in my eyes, he was that much stronger in "Quad M".

Hawkes is undoubtedly going to garner awards attention again for his breakout performance in The Sessions, if for nothing else, the level of dedication required to lie on his back for the entirety of the film. The credits-aplenty character actor drawing his first lead role in the based on a true tale of Mark O'Brien, a polio-stricken 38-year-old confined to a container akin to a coffin, an iron lung. The Boston-born, Berkley-residing writer/poet getting gurneyed around in search of someone to de-virginize him.

That someone turns out to be a prostitute sex surrogate in the form of the out-of-witness-protection, unabashedly-unafraid-to-get-buck-naked Helen Hunt. The pair slowly - and often prematurely - working to overcome O'Brien's anxieties in the sack. The "sessions" are uniformly uncomfortable to watch; find me someone - anyone - who wants to see Hunt's bare bottom straddling Hawkes face. It's simply awkward.

For the entire endeavor to emotionally register, you must buy into the romance that purportedly blossoms between Hawkes and Hunt. I didn't, not for a second. For the life of me I still can't figure out why multiple women in the film found Hawkes' character irresistible. Weaselly-voiced, idiosyncratically-whiny, the guy's more annoying than lovable - heck likable. His local pastor (a game William Macy) should have been granted saint status for putting up with O'Brien on a seemingly daily basis.

Calling a spade a spade, The Sessions is the art house version of Tom Cruise's classic Losin' It. Try and try as writer/director Ben Lewin might, there's zero emotional attachment to his creation. While that may be difficult to digest given the empathy we're supposed to share with Hawkes character, it's the end result.

And I'm not taking it lying down.