Directed by Ben Lewin
Actress in a Supporting Role (Helen Hunt)
2012 / 95 Minutes
Inspired by a true story, director Ben Lewin’s The Sessions tells the tale of a 38 year-old man named Mark (John Hawkes of Winter’s Bone fame) who was left immobilized from the neck down by Polio at a young age. In order to properly breathe he requires the constant use of an iron lung, a machine he cannot be away from for more than two to three hours at a time. Despite these physical shortcomings and the odds stacked against him however, he grows up to lead a full, productive life, graduating from college and pursuing a career as a writer. One experience eludes him however. He’s never had sexual relations.
Enter Helen Hunt as Cheryl, a sexy sex surrogate with a husband and teenage son at home whom Mark hires to help him with his pressing issue. Let the soft core porn begin. Hunt spends most of the movie naked. When she’s not naked, she’s either preparing to get naked with Mark, or getting dressed after being naked for an extended period of time with Mark, or she’s climbing into bed fully clothed next to her husband Josh (Adam Arkin). It seems she has no problem bearing it all for anyone and everyone, including Rhea Perlman, but when it comes to her husband, she keeps her goods tucked far, far away from his probing eyes.
And so for 95 minutes the audience is exposed to Hunt’s boobs from all manner of angle and her ass as she gently, lovingly grinds away on Mark’s penis. Mind you they have to have five or six sessions before they can build up to the actual penetration because Mark is, how do you say this delicately… He’s extra sensitive down there. So essentially, its lots of boob shots slowly building up to more and more ass shots as the sessions progress toward the ultimate goal of full penetration. Mind you, it’s all tastefully done in such a way that makes it Oscar worthy of course!
Is this really the best role that was available at the time for Helen Hunt? Is she really at that point in her career where she needs to do something more provocative to keep the spotlight shining in her direction? She’s a damn fine actress, and don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with seeing her boobs and ass, but I can’t help think that she deserves a much more complex character to portray, one that showcases her vast range of emotional depth and not just her physical attributes.
Rounding out the picture are Mark’s caregivers and William H. Macy with awesome 80’s hair as the local parish priest Father Brendan in whom Mark confides his desires to have sex. In fact, he seeks Brendan’s approval before embarking on his sexual journey to make sure that God would approve of his sex outside of marriage idea. In response, Father Brendan tells him that he thinks that God would give him a pass on this one.
Oh those Catholic priests! They always know exactly what God would or would not approve of, don’t they? And they’re always more than willing to let you know about it too. As the film progresses the audience is supposed to grow to like Father Brendan and appreciate his wisdom, but the opposite actually becomes true. As he listens in to the lurid details of Mark’s sexual awakening the priest becomes creepier and creepier. When he shows up at Mark’s house unannounced, with a six-pack of beer in hand, ready to hear more details of the dirty deeds, one can’t help but feel sickened by his presence. Of course Mark doesn’t mind, or if he does, he never shows it. He’s just happy to have someone to talk to.
The Sessions is an interesting idea that probably found studio funding based solely on the strength of Helen Hunt’s boobs. It’s not a masterpiece, but it is an interesting, thoughtful tale of self-discovery and sexual awakening. Its power lies in the love, not the sex, as it gleefully reminds us that the two powerful forces will always be messily intertwined.
Oh, and it features Helen Hunt’s boobs as well. Did I mention that already?
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