Shame, in which Michael Fassbender played a sex addict, with this genial, si' />

It's probably unfair to compare Steve McQueen's stunning and unflinching Shame, in which Michael Fassbender played a sex addict, with this genial, sincere dramedy traversing the same territory.

Their tone and intentions are entirely different, after all, but even without the unflattering comparison, the new film is more notable for its good intentions than its dramatic conviction.

Despite good performances from a solid ensemble (including singer Pink) it never loses the feel of a slightly self-improving public education film, though if it were that, it would be the best of that genre ever made. How much it impresses you will rather depend on whether you see the title as sincere or a sarcastic one-liner.

Scripted by director Blumberg, who wrote the similarly anodyne lesbian-marriage comedy The Kids Are All Right, it introduces a quartet of characters - Adam (Ruffalo), Mike (Robbins), Danny (Fugit) and Dede (Pink) - all recovering sex addicts twelve-stepping their way tentatively through life.

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The film follows them in parallel and tangentially related subplots through a variety of challenges, scattering aphorisms in their wake with a facility that starts out entertaining and ends up being faintly manipulative: "Feelings are like children," Mike says at one point. "You don't want them driving the car, but you don't want to stuff them in the trunk either."

This cuteness, together with an episodic style that cuts away from each story just when it's starting to get interesting, makes for a movie that is slick but dramatically unsatisfying.

But (and it's a big but), there is much to be admired in a crossover film that addresses a major malaise of our time: the commodification of sexuality and the sexualisation of everything.

Stars: 3/5
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins, Joely Richardson, Patrick Fugit, Josh Gad, Alecia Moore (aka Pink)
Director: Stuart Blumberg
Running time: 112 mins
Rating: R16 (sex scenes, offensive language, content may disturb)
Verdict: Sincere and heartfelt if occasionally over-earnest

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- TimeOut