Film review: The Sessions

Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes) is a poet. He graduated from UC-Berkeley with a degree in English and now works as a poet/journalist. He is also a survivor of polio. As a result of the disease, he now has to spend most of his time in an iron lung. He is not quadriplegic. He simply has no control over his muscles. He is a deeply religious man.

He also very much wants to have sex. Mark first falls in love with his caretaker Amanda (Annika Marks). He asks her to marry him, but she just does not feel that way about him. Mark then seeks advice from a therapist, who points him in the direction of a sex surrogate. He seeks the advice of his priest Father Brendan (the always phenomenal William H. Macy), who tells him that Jesus would probably give him a free pass for having sex outside of marriage. Father Brendan is probably the coolest priest I have ever seen depicted in the media.

Mark then meets his sex surrogate Cheryl (Helen Hunt). She quickly explains the difference between a sex surrogate and a prostitute. Though both receive money for having sex with people, Cheryl is not looking to establish repeat business. There is a limit on the number of “sessions” she will have with a client, in order to prevent too much attachment. Cheryl’s job is to guide Mark through his sexuality. She wants to help him discover what feels good, what he likes, what he doesn’t like, and so forth. His primary goal is to achieve full penetration with a woman, so that is what the two of them work toward.

The film is exquisitely crafted. It is based on the article Mark O’Brien wrote about his experiences. The script was written by Ben Lewin, who also directed the film. Going into the awards season, most of the buzz is around Hawkes’ performance, as well as Hunt’s. Personally, I found Helen Hunt’s performance to be astounding. Her struggle to remain professional while clearly becoming attached to this client is something to which anyone who has been in a helping profession can relate. It is a very subdued performance and there are very few instances where you see her truly start to lose it. I have always preferred quieter performances to ones that are more in your face. At this point in the awards season, I would love to see Hunt become the frontrunner for the Best Supporting Actress race.

I also greatly enjoyed the fact that the film depicted a person with a disability as someone with a sex drive. Our society typically paints those with disabilities as these sexless beings. That is simply not the case. We need to understand that regardless of a person’s disability, he or she is still a human being. Sex is a biological urge. The majority of people with disabilities want to have sex at some point in their lives. It is extremely refreshing to see a film that acknowledges that fact.

In terms of gender representation, the film does pass the Bechdel test. We see a very brief scene between Cheryl and Mark’s caretaker Vera (Moon Bloodgood) in which Cheryl has a bit of an emotional breakdown. There is also a longer scene between Cheryl and the Mikvah Lady (Rhea Perlman) at a synagogue. They have a conversation about sexuality and how women feel about being naked. It is not a particularly long scene, but it raises a lot of really interesting questions.

We primarily see women in caretaker positions. The main caretakers are Vera and Amanda. However, Mark also has an aide named Rod (W. Earl Brown), who we see in a limited capacity. The relationship between Mark and Father Brendan is also very interesting. These two men spend the majority of the film talking about sex. However, they do it in a way that focuses on Mark’s vulnerabilities and fears. It’s extremely refreshing to see two men talk about sex in a way that does not objectify women at all. For a film where the two main characters spend a good portion of the time naked, I never felt like either character was objectified. Sex is portrayed in a very natural way. We see how it can be awkward and funny at times. It’s never meant to be really romantic between these people, but it still feels very intimate.

I would love to see the film get more buzz in the Best Picture category because I feel like it is a very well-crafted movie. I highly recommend it.


It’s a Glee Thanksgiving! (A week late)

Sorry for the delay in getting this up. Walking pneumonia knocked me flat on my ass for a couple weeks. I strongly advise against getting it.

No previouslies this week. We get straight to the reunion fans have been anxiously awaiting. The power of song draws Quinn, Puck, Mike, Santana, Mercedes, and Finn (still dressing like Schue) to the auditorium to sing a mash-up of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound” and Phillip Phillips’ “Home.” There are hugs all around. Puck calls for a group hug and they are all adorable. Seriously.

We get a Marley voiceover this week. She has apparently dreamed since she was seven of singing on stage in a beautiful dress. She runs into the cafeteria to show her mom her beautiful Sectionals dress. They hug. It’s adorable. Marley goes on to talk about how she hasn’t lost as much weight as her mom has, but she sees a difference. And no. Just no. This body image storyline has been handled horribly from the very beginning. You don’t need to lose any weight at all, Marley. You’re gorgeous just the way you are and at a completely healthy weight. Someone needs to tell you this, since apparently no one in New Directions cares enough. At the very end of the scene, we see that Marley’s mom apparently has told her not to blow it, which goes against everything we’ve learned so far about Mama Rose.

The graduates are at Breadstix catching up on old times. Puck leads them in a toast to “almost all of us keeping our promises,” very obviously taking a dig at Kurt & Rachel. Rightfully so, since it makes no sense at all for them to miss Thanksgiving. Santana asks about the New York duo. Mike has apparently been keeping in touch with Blaine, which makes the Bike Chanderson friendshipper in me very happy. Quinn is still talking to Rachel. Finn makes things awkward. We learn that Quinn is keeping straight A’s at Yale and is going to be in the only all-female secret society. I call so much bullshit on that.

Finn introduces the graduates to the newbies in the choir room. He calls them all “legends.” They’ve been gone for less than a semester. I wouldn’t go quite that far, Finn. Artie pretty much agrees with me. Finn pairs up the graduates and the newbies for some mentoring. The pairs are: Puck/Lil’ Puck, Mike/Ryder, Marley/Santana, Kitty/Quinn, and Wade/Mercedes. Kitty is weirdly excited and gives Quinn a way too enthusiastic hug. Brittany makes an obligatory stupid comment by saying that Wade is Mercedes’ clone. Finn says the mentors are there for whatever the newbies need, such as singing and dancing. Quinn makes a comment about birth control, prompting Kitty to suck up to her. It’s nauseating. Finn reminds us all that the evil Warblers are out for blood this year. The random third choir is apparently a group of Mennonites and Artie says they also deserve “mad respect” because they can raise a barn in five minutes. Marley and Blaine are in charge of the duet. For their showstopping number, Finn has decided on “Gangnam Style,” because that’s clearly a song that will translate well to show choir. You’re an idiot, Finn. Santana says exactly that, except she makes the point that Brittany is really the only strong dancer. Maybe Finn will just pull in Mike Chang the way he pulled in Santana for “Grease.” Joe asks if there’s no way Mr. Schue can come back. No, he can’t. He no longer cares about you. Finn brings up that they have never lost at Sectionals and they won’t do so under his watch. Finn thinks they need a strong dance number in order to beat the Warblers. Okay, fine, but PICK A BETTER SONG, YOU IMBECILE! Finn volunteers Mike as dance teacher. Hope he didn’t have anything better to do over his Thanksgiving break. Finn asks for a guy to volunteer to take the male lead in the dance number. Sam reminds us all of his stripper past and starts body rolling.

Ryder is apparently big into dance and is freaking over the fact that Mike is training at the Joffrey School. Jake isn’t interested and just needs to tell Ryder that he’s dating Marley now. Jake assures Ryder he wasn’t just going to “hump her and dump her.” Charming. Ryder kind of gives his blessing, but only as long as Jake doesn’t take the dance lead, too.

Now for the New York duo. Rachel didn’t get whatever part she tried out for, but she’s just going to focus on the stupid NYADA showcase. She nags Kurt about reapplying to NYADA. Rachel keeps talking about how she feels good about them blowing off their families for Thanksgiving and staying in New York like selfish brats. I expect this behavior from Rachel. She has never seemed to care about anyone other than herself, but Kurt Hummel, you have disappointed me. Poor Burt is going to be crying into his turkey because his only son decided to stay in New York. I would forgive this if there were any sort of throwaway line about Burt being stuck in Washington for the holiday, but no, Kurt is just being a selfish jerk. They go on to talk about how they only need each other. I’m so irrationally mad at Kurt in this episode. I already hated Rachel, but Kurt is better than this. You could go home two weeks ago to see your ex-boyfriend in a musical, but you can’t go home for a major holiday. Rachel promises the best Thanksgiving ever and Kurt doesn’t seem like he quite agrees with her.

Mike leads the guys in their “Gangnam Style” dance class. Finn and Puck kind of just watch. Sam pulls out some more stripper moves. Ryder dances around like a sexy beast and gets the lead since Jake is practically sleepwalking.

Brittany, Santana, and Quinn reunite as “The Unholy Trinity.” Quinn claims that the three were so in sync that they had an almost psychic ability to move together. She spouts off some crap about how it’s all about individuality and synchronicity. Santana says they need to highlight their “feminine qualities,” since the Warblers don’t have that. Whatever, you’re singing “Gangnam Style.” You don’t deserve to win. Marley asks for an example. The three pull out a perfectly choreographed version The Supremes’ “Come See About Me,” in a great callback to their debut with “Say A Little Prayer.” We get the first signs that Marley’s not okay as she shakes and blinks nervously. Santana notices immediately and Marley gets out of dodge.

Kitty is really getting into the whole mentor thing, in an almost creepy way. She says that she would have thrown “such a hissy” if she hadn’t gotten paired with Quinn. Kitty tells Quinn that she idolizes her and even has a picture of Quinn with a halo over her head in her locker. Above the picture are the letters “WWQFD” for “What would Quinn Fabray do.” This is the point where I would start backing away slowly because there’s a difference between being idolized and being stalked. I fully believe Kitty is capable of crossing that line. Quinn tries to play it off as flattering, but Kitty keeps going with how she aspires to be Quinn. If Dianna Agron were going to be around for more than one episode, I could totally see Kitty going all “Single White Female” on Quinn. It’s a little scary. Quinn tries to change the subject to Marley, but Kitty says it’s all Jake’s fault and he’s pressuring Marley into having sex. There is literally not a single redeemable quality in Kitty’s character. She’s just atrocious.

Marley calls Jake out on not going for the male dance lead. Jake basically says he traded Ryder the dance lead for Marley, because that’s not insulting in any way. Marley says they could possibly lose Sectionals without Jake’s mad dancing skills. I mean, he takes dance lessons! Jake promises that Ryder will be awesome. He asks to walk Marley to lunch, but she’s skipping it again in favor of rehearsing so she doesn’t let the team down. This isn’t going to end well.

Back to Rachel’s dance class. She doesn’t seem to take any other classes, except for this one dance class. Brody is teaching today. Of course, this means the class will be all about Rachel. She bitchily packs up her stuff because she pays ridiculous amounts of money to be taught by a professional and not a TA. Oh, honey. You’re in an introductory class. Pretty sure no one but graduate students and first-year professors teach those, no matter what university you attend. Get off your high horse. Of course, this is really all about how Brody slept with Cassandra and all that bullshit. He pulls her in for a foxtrot and lectures Rachel about being that “crazy girl.” Rachel claims that Cassandra is her mortal enemy and hopes it at least sucked. It didn’t. Kudos to Brody for telling her that. I’m all about tearing Rachel down. Brody asks what she’s doing for Thanksgiving. She goes on with her crap about her “orphan Thanksgiving.” I’m so over everything to do with Rachel Berry. Brody invites himself over for Thanksgiving.

Puck commends Jake for taking a “bros before hoes” attitude with Ryder. He says that was always his motto, especially after impregnating his best friend’s girlfriend. He gets a great line when Quinn walks up (“speak of the devil I knocked up”) to tell Jake to back off Marley. Puck tells us that when Quinn gets this particular look, she’s completely irrational. Jake is confused as to who would tell Quinn he’s pressuring Marley to have sex. Quinn says it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a Puckerman is a womanizer. Puck halfheartedly tells Quinn she’s out of line, but Quinn maintains they can’t win Sectionals if Jake is distracting Marley. No, they can’t win Sectionals if Marley’s empty stomach is distracting her, but nice try.

Kurt is apparently the last person to leave, except for Isabelle. They talk about some article for the website and what Christmas movies they’re most excited about. Kurt asks if she has any “fantabulous” plans. Sadly, due to Gore Vidal’s death, her annual Thanksgiving and Pictionary is canceled, so she’s planning on pizza alone. Kurt naturally invites her over for Thanksgiving. At least then he’ll have someone with whom he can commiserate over the awkward sexual tension between Rachel and Brody. Isabelle asks if she can bring some friends. She also notes that Kurt seems happier and asks if it’s because he made up with Blaine. Kurt says he’s closing the book on Blaine, breaking millions of hearts with a single sentence. He apparently sent Blaine a text asking for no more contact. Isabelle says it’ll be easier for Kurt to move on if he can accept Blaine’s apology. Yes, listen to Sarah Jessica Parker! Forgive Blaine!

Since Quinn is not a rational human being, she thrives on Kitty’s creepiness. Quinn mentors her on how to make eye contact with the judges and be a little flirtatious. After all, Kitty’s just helping out by reminding the judges of their youth. I sometimes forget how completely insane Quinn was. Then she opens her mouth. Santana walks in and tells Quinn that Kitty is pure evil. Of course, Quinn thinks she’s the sweetest person ever. Santana found out that Kitty has been giving Marley laxatives, in addition to prompting her to purge. Quinn is apparently taking Intro to Psych (probably with a TA) and says that Santana is just projecting her issues with Quinn onto Kitty. No, Kitty is actually pure evil. Quinn says this is all because Santana is jealous of her. Quinn is enjoying clam bakes at Jodie Foster’s house and dating her married professor, so she clearly has an awesome life. She goes on to say that Santana is just a “scared little girl with low self-esteem” who is too scared to chase her dreams. Santana brings up Beth and Quinn slaps her, so Santana slaps right back. Then Brittany walks in and calls them out for fighting. Quinn walks away.

Ryder is soaked in sweat and practicing “Gangnam Style.” He can’t memorize the moves until he memorizes the words. Too bad the song is in Korean. Jake tries to tell him to just focus on the music and the moves will come. Jake shows Ryder how the dance goes, at which point Ryder realizes Jake is actually an amazing dancer. Ryder says they need Jake in order to win, but Jake is determined to let Ryder have the dance solo. Jake apparently took the laptop the Warblers left and kept it for himself.

Time for the sad panda Thanksgiving. Kurt has apparently never seen anyone cook a turkey in a bag. I call bullshit. He’s probably been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for years. Brody continues to rain on the parade by forbidding them from breaking into song. Then he calls Rachel the vegetarian over to help him butter the turkey. Dude, no. I know she cooked freaking duck for you a couple episodes ago, but as a vegetarian, I know I refuse to even touch meat. It’s just icky. Brody shows Rachel how to butter the turkey in the most suggestive way possibly. Kurt calls them out on it and says it’s almost 5:00. It’s that late and you haven’t even started cooking the turkey? Hope you enjoy your Day After Thanksgiving dinner. Rachel notes that it’s almost time for Sectionals. Really? A high school show choir competition is on a federal holiday? Really? Brody says that most high schools have football games on Thanksgiving. No, they don’t. I remember state championship games being played the day after Thanksgiving, but never on the actual holiday. I don’t understand the Glee world. Rachel starts reminiscing about her first sectionals and giving herself a pep talk.

Cut to Marley giving herself a pep talk about how she’s ready for this and it’s time to make a “little girl’s dream come true.” I feel like any pep talk Marley gives herself is instantly more authentic than anything Rachel ever said to herself. She then thinks about hungry she is. Marley and Unique have a conversation about how Unique is dressed as herself rather than as Wade. Unique knows they’re trying to protect her, but she just wants to be an individual. I don’t know what pronouns to use with Wade/Unique because I’m still unclear if they’re going the transgender route with Unique or what. I kind of love the Marley/Unique friendship. They’re really great for each other. Mercedes calls them in for a show circle, which Mr. Schue apparently made up. No, Finn. I was never in theater or choir or anything like that past middle school and even I know that show circles are a really common thing. Finn asks Joe to lead them in prayer. Finn starts reminiscing about their first Sectionals and gives some crap about how the graduates have been to the mountaintop.

One thing Glee has managed to keep up in terms of continuity is their tradition of ridiculous judges for competitions. This year, we’ve got the newspaper’s obituary editor, chief historian of a train museum, and the Catfish Queen. Love it. The New Directions walk out and Marley hugs her mom.

Evil Warbler Hunter comes out and introduces the Warblers. Everything he says is just so creepy. They break into Flo Rida’s “Whistle,” which is the most hilariously inappropriate song for an all-boys high school choir to sing. For those of you who have never heard it, look up the lyrics and put your mind in the gutter. Ever since Blaine left Dalton, the Warblers have majorly upped their dance skills. This is not the same group of boys from season 2 that just kind of swayed together. They are all now capable of back flipping. They move from “Whistle” into One Direction’s “Live While We’re Young,” led by Sebastian. I really wish Riker Lynch or Curt Mega got a solo somewhere. They’ve been Warblers since season 2 and have a massive fan base. The crowd goes wild and rightfully so. The Warblers kicked ass.

We go back to the sad panda Thanksgiving. Rachel talks about how much she misses the old days when she would sing holiday medleys with her dads and now she feels like that part of her life is over. Way to turn your back on your family, you ungrateful shrew. You are an only child. Your fathers are crying into their pies while you talk about how you don’t need them anymore. I have no sympathy for you. Apparently, they got a super fast-cooking turkey because it’s already done. A group of Isabelle’s friends show up. They break into a mash-up of Scissor Sisters’ “Let’s Have a Kiki” and “Turkey Lurkey Time” from “Promises, Promises.” Apparently, Chris Colfer specifically requested they do this Scissor Sisters song. It is the most cracktastic dance sequence ever. I don’t even know what’s happening on my screen right now. I hated it the first time I saw it, but it’s kind of growing on me.

Sue is sitting in the audience with Emma, talking about how she hoped she timed it so that Robin would wake up screaming during New Directions. Will shows up because he apparently still cares about his students. I remain skeptical. The Mennonite choir goes into a mash-up of “Over the River and Through the Woods” with “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain.” They kind of kick ass. I almost want them to win, except no one does a back flip. Advantage: Warblers.

Finn gathers everyone backstage. Sam peeks out and sees Mr. Schue. Blaine’s phone starts vibrating and it’s freaking Kurt! Blaine starts to apologize again, but Kurt cuts him off. He accepts his apology, but says he’s not quite ready to forgive Blaine yet. Kurt tells Blaine how much he misses him. Darren Criss’ face is breaking my heart right now. Kurt goes on to say that he can’t stand not talking to Blaine because they’re still best friends. Blaine agrees in such a broken face. They make plans to meet up over Christmas. Darren gives this heartbreaking laugh and I just want to hug him so much right now. Kurt wishes them luck. Blaine tests the waters by telling Kurt he loves him. Kurt says it back and goes back inside while the Klaine theme plays. Isabelle is waiting with a hug. So many emotions. I can’t deal.

Marley looks like she’s about to pass out. She is not doing well at all. Jake comes over to check on her and she is clearly not okay. She plays it off as being under pressure. She hasn’t slept and is about to have a panic attack. Ryder picks that moment to come over and tell Jake he needs to take the dance lead. Dude, can we focus on Marley for a second? Girl is spiraling out of control. Ryder says the team will suffer unless Jake takes the dance lead.

They break out into “Gangnam Style.” Sam is inexplicably wearing sunglasses and it definitely seems like Sam is the dance lead. Jenna Ushkowitz finally gets a solo because of course the Asian girl will sing the Korean part. This performance is terrible. You don’t deserve to win. They fire off the confetti cannons. Things start to sway and the sound starts to go out a little. Just as the song ends, Marley goes down. Santana notices immediately and the rest of the choir rushes to her aid. They check her pulse and the show ends.

Next week (or in a couple days when I get the recap done because I’m way far behind): Finn freaks out. Mr. Schue says they risk being disqualified for leaving the stage. Finn goes to war with Sue over the glee club. Cassandra and Rachel are still fighting with each other. The glee club sings in the snow. Brittany/Sam is happening. Whoopi Goldberg calls Kurt for an impromptu performance. Sue says the New Directions are finished.