Michael C here.
“In my heart I feel that he will give you a free pass on this one” says kindly priest William H Macy to paralyzed John Hawkes. Hawkes is looking for a greenlight from the church to use a sexual surrogate so he can finally experience the joys of intercourse. "My penis speaks to me, Father Brennan," Hawkes helpfully clarifies.
So opens the trailer of Sundance crowd pleaser The Sessions.
Come on everybody. Let’s see if we can get a chant going like the end of Rudy…'John Hawkes! John Hawkes! John Hawkes!'
After his brilliant nominated work in Winter’s Bone and his equally brilliant un-nominated work in Martha Marcy, there is every indication that Hawkes delivers another sit-up-and-take-notice performance here. Honestly, Sessions could end with Helen Hunt wheeling him out onto the field at the Super Bowl to catch the game winning pass in his teeth and I’m confident Hawkes could make it intensely subtle and believable.
A nomination for The Sessions – and sexual frankness aside it certainly looks pitched right at the Academy sweet spot – will likely be chalked up to their love of gimmick performances, but really, Hawkes is currently one of those guys like Tom Hardy or Michael Shannon knocking it out of the park every time at bat.
I also felt an unreasonable amount of pleasure seeing William H Macy turn up. He’s not exactly pushing his talent to its limits, but doesn’t it feel like forever since he’s had a really good big screen role? Last thing that springs to mind is him insisting that Vermont would not apologize for its cheese.
Also, that bit about simultaneous orgasms? Funny.
Right around the time the OK Go song kicked in I felt my expectations take a hit. This preview is going out of its way to let audiences know that even though the main character is a man paralyzed by polio from a young age Sessions is still going to be fun, fun, fun. There is even the strong suggestion an unlikely yet heartwarming romance blossoms between Hawkes and Hunt.
Hopefully, this can be chalked up to the nature of trailers to reduce any movie to two minutes of mushy comfort food, skipping over complex or tricky material in favor of punchlines and triumph over disease uplift. Hopefully.
For whatever reasons Helen Hunt has proved a surprisingly divisive actress. For hardcore movie folk a lot of it no doubt stems from her ’97 Oscar win over Judi Dench (a travesty to be sure) but other than that I’ve never understood why she rubs so many people the wrong way. She has never been my particular cup of tea, but that has a lot more to do with her questionable taste in material than her performances. I’ve got the feeling this performance may silence a few of her haters. Or I’m kidding myself and the mere presence of Hunt in the trailer has haters running at the movie like Spike Lee with a trash can at the end of Do the Right Thing. “HAAAATE!”
The fact that Sessions won the Audience Award at Sundance is also a positive indicator. Their track record isn’t perfect, but Sundance voters do have a knack for picking out gems like The Station Agent or Maria, Full of Grace as well as breakout hits like Hustle and Flow and Precious.
Are you a Yes, No, or Maybe So?
So for the presence of Hawkes and for giving off the vibe of an intelligent, emotionally honest movie along the lines of 50/50, despite the trailer tricks, mark me down as a solid yes. What say you?