The Curt Critic featured in the Wisconsin State Journal

The Curt Critic in the news: This recent Wisconsin State Journal article is validation that Liz Zélandais' quest to see all 53 Oscar-nominated films for 2013 is a fascinating enterprise worthy of public interest, rather than merely nuts.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Sessions - 2013 Oscar Nominee for Best Supporting Actress

"I believe in a God with a sense of humor. I would find it intolerable not to be able to blame someone for all this." -Mark O'Brien

Viewing every 2013 Oscar-nominated film means sitting through some clinkers ("There's two and ahalf hours and eight dollars I'll never get back."), as well as some unanticipated gifts. The Sessions is a gem that falls into the latter category.

The story line—man in iron lung seeks sexual surrogate to help him achieve normalcy—initially struck me as the lowest common demoninator in attempting to legitimize sexual sensationalism and emotionally manipulate with the plight of the disabled. I was so wrong.

The movie is based on Mike O'Brien's 1990 article, Seeing a Sexual Surrogate. O'Brien, a poet and journalist, was born in 1950 and felled by polio in 1956. After living most of his life in an iron lung, he died at age 49—but not before getting a graduate degree from UC-Berkeley and gracing the world with his keen wit and honed writing.

Helen Hunt (Best Supporting Actress nom) is sensitive and nuanced as the surrogate; and when she is nude, it is neither gratuitous nor air-brushed. A minor nit to pick: consistency in her Boston accent would have been a plus. Unless you are the Pope, you will love William H. Macy's Father Brendan—a priest with such compassion and humor, he could motivate an atheist to seek conversion.

The real amazement is John Hawkes as O'Brien. He should have received a Best Actor nomination/win for delivering a performance—entirely from a supine* position—that opens up your chest cavity and rips your heart out while making you laugh. And he somehow does it without manipulation. If you want to be touched by the longing for normalcy, courage, and our human commonalities—see The Sessions.

*Thank you, Karen Darcy!


  1. I totally agree with you about her inconsistent Boston accent. I would have preferred she just talk in her regular voice.

    Wouldn't you say John Hawkes delivered his performance from a supine position? (prone indicates face down). I agree that he was snubbed for a Best Actor nom!

  2. Dr. St.Arbuck! You are totally correct (and awesome) on prone vs supine. I was ignorant of the difference. Thank you for educating me--and improving the review. I have made the correction. xo

  3. I love your reviews! You describe movies in great detail without giving up spoilers. I appreciate that (and you)!