“The Sessions”

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This screening was an unexpected pleasure — a special one-off showing of an indie film I had not even heard of.  And it turned out to be a terrific event — with the director, producer and star available for Q&A afterwards!  They actually counted the empty seats after we were all in, to see how many stand-bys could be accommodated.  (I love my local theater!)

From the email invitation:

Winner of the Audience Award and a Special Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, The Sessions is based on the poignantly optimistic writings of California-based journalist and poet Mark O’Brien (played by John Hawkes). Confined to an iron lung due to polio, O’Brien is, at age 38, determined to lose his virginity. With the help of his therapists and the guidance of his priest (William H. Macy), he sets out to make his dream a reality. Co-starring Helen Hunt.

It was a really nice film — made me think about things I never had considered, which I suppose was the intention.  But it was funny, too.  The actors were excellent.   I guess this is why they call them “actors,” but John Hawkes was SO different from the last two parts I saw him in (Martha Marcy May Marlene and Winter’s Bone — both scary roles, and one was a really bad and creepy guy, brrrr!).   He came across as (is that any better than “came off as”?) an intelligent and thoughtful person in the Q&A as well.  Articulate and not apparently too full of himself — he seemed like such a normal and interesting person that I feel a little funny writing about him like this.  (Still remembering that he is an actor, though…)  I wished that I had a question to ask him but I settled for complimenting him on my way past (a benefit of my penchant for the front row).

I found some biographical material on him on the Internet, and it seems he may have a good background for playing scary rural guys.  I did not realize he was as old as 53, though — there is that actor business again, allowing him to play younger roles, I guess.

It didn’t really sink in that the movie was based on a true story, till the end (I was not paying enough attention to the beginning, which included real footage of the main character, and apparently I didn’t bother to read the invitation very thoroughly).  Perhaps that fact explains why some of the characters were not well developed, such as the therapist played by Helen Hunt (my goodness, she is in good shape!) and the priest played by William H. Macy.   I suppose that his role’s purpose was to allow some of Mark O’Brien’s comic lines, which I imagine appeared in his writings, to be spoken on screen.   Anyway, he looked great with the shaggy hair.

Back to Helen Hunt:  her husband was played by Adam Arkin, and aspects of their relationship were raised but not really resolved or even pursued much.  Possibly they are both still alive, so that might have limited what was allowed to be shown on screen?  ( I mean the real people the roles were based on.)  But, they were not the main story, and I think the main story was told well.  I do recommend this movie.

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