Movie Review: The Sessions

By Stephen Rebello

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The story of a polio-stricken virgin who sets out to finally get laid.


Director: Ben Lewin

MPAA Rating: R

Studio: Such Much Films

The Sessions, originally titled The Surrogate, is based on the real-life attempts of a polio-stricken poet named Mark O’Brien, a virgin, to finally get himself laid. Or, better still, laid and emotionally attached. He makes a play for his caretaker but finally finds a professional sex surrogate, played crisply and touchingly by Helen Hunt. That O’Brien is smart, acid-tongued and sweet-spirited is a big plus; that the endlessly resourceful, gifted John Hawkes plays him is miraculous. He’s so wide-eyed, intelligent and emotionally accessible that he breaks your heart.

As the unlikely, against-all-odds relationship between O’Brien and his instructor progresses over time, we root for them. The performances of the two leads are simply fantastic, and there is also nifty work from Bill Macy as a parish priest and Moon Bloodgood as a caretaker. It’s a slight film but it’s also sharp, sure, funny and touching, with a clear-eyed, non-smirking attitude toward sexuality that is refreshing. Nicely written and directed by Ben Lewin, The Sessions skips and floats over a host of minefields and issues — polio! sex! morality! mortality! — while rarely making a false move. You may not think you want to see this, but trust us, it’s a good time at the movies.


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