Director: Ben Lewin
Nominated for: Best Supporting Actress (Helen Hunt)
It isn’t eye-opening or life changing, but it is very hard to not enjoy this movie. The movie is based on the true story of Mark O’Brien, a poet who is paralyzed from the neck down to to his polio. Mark O’Brien is portrayed by a horribly Oscar-snubbed John Hawkes, who makes the best of not being able to move most of his body. Hawkes develops a very distinct voice. His portrayal of O’Brien makes him come across as an anxious romantic who desires love and intimacy. To achieve this, he is given the idea to hire a sex surrogate (which as the movie points out, is very different from a prostitute). Mark hires Cheryl Cohen-Greene, played by Helen Hunt in a very honest performance. Some of the women in this movie have a slight struggle, that being that they grow too close to Mark, and Cheryl is not different. It was certainly entertaining to see these sessions between Mark and Cheryl; Cheryl treats this work in a very professional manner, and Mark acts anxiously the entire time; he initially screams in pain when his shirt is being removed and overall is very nervous during these sessions. Many of these moments form the basis of the comedic moments in this movie, and they are, for the most part, effective. Again, Cheryl becomes closer to Mark, and vice versa. Mark relates this information to his local pastor, Father Brendan, portrayed by William H. Macy. It was amusing to see Brendan’s reactions to Mark’s casually-told but graphic recollections of the sessions. He is overall a good supporting character, but I disliked how scenes with him and Mark were intercut with other scenes, such as the sessions themselves. It sometimes made for a messy narrative. There were also some scenes with Mark’s different nurses that were utterly pointless, like a conversation with one of his nurse’s and her boyfriend, whom we never see again, and recurring scenes with a hotel bellhop hitting on his nurse. This movie has nice themes of love and intimacy, and working with the limitations you have. Mark had already had this condition for quite sometime by the time we meet him. He never complains and has accepted his condition, yet frustrated with the limitations he has that prevents him from achieving intimacy. These are nice themes, but the movie overall isn’t very emotionally powerful.
Narrative problems aside, John Hawkes and Helen Hunt make the movie as a whole work, which contains nice themes and some amusing moments.