Hilarious, charming and heartwarming, The Sessions is one of the best films of the year. It’s the true story of Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), a California-based journalist relegated to a gurney and iron lung because of disabling polio. At the age of 38, he’s still a virgin and, with the blessing of his priest (William H. Macy), Mark hires a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) to remedy the problem.

Directed by Ben Lewin, The Sessions is now open in select cities with plans to expand over the next few weeks. As that happens, buzz will begin to grow for the film, which makes complete sense considering the source material. This fictional take on a true story is based on the 1997 Oscar-winning Documentary Short Film Breathing Lessons, written and directed by Jessica Yu. It too centers on O’Brien, but instead of using sex as the window to his struggle, the short presents a more traditional, complete portrait of the man.

Check out the Oscar-winner that inspired a potential Oscar-winner after the jump. Read More »

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Note: This is a reprint of my review of The Sessions, formerly The Surrogate, upon its premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. I’ve changed the name of the film below, but left everything else remains intact. It opens on a limited basis today and is truly one of the year’s most special films.

With 2011 being a rare exception, a Sundance award winner is almost always in the thick of awards season. And while the 2012 Sundance Film Festival has yet to bestow its awards, let alone premiere all the films, I feel confident in saying Ben Lewin‘s The Sessions will likely be in the mix for awards here and possibly next year at the Oscars.

The Sessions is the true story of Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), a California-based journalist relegated to a gurney and iron lung because of disabling polio. At the age of 38, he’s still a virgin and, with the blessing of his priest (William H. Macy), Mark hires a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) to remedy the problem.

While the story sounds kind of creepy, pathetic and depressing, The Sessions is exactly the opposite. It’s hilarious, brave and frank about both disabilities and sexuality. It’s a special film which had its world premiere this week in Park City, leading to what looks like a $6m deal for Fox Searchlight to distribute the film. Read more after the jump. Read More »

The story of a guy trying hard to get laid for the first time has been told and told again in many an R-rated comedy, but Ben Lewin‘s The Sessions isn’t American Pie or even The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Instead, it’s a truth-based drama that’s garnering serious Oscar buzz for its star, John Hawkes. The Martha Marcy May Marlene actor plays poet Mark O’Brien, who’s confined to an iron lung thanks to a long-ago battle with polio. At 38, he decides it’s time to lose his virginity, and he enlists the help of a professional sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) to do so.

The Sessions originally debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival under the title The Surrogate, and then briefly changed its name to Six Sessions before settling on The Sessions. But whatever it’s called, it’s proving well-loved. Germain called it “truly breathtaking” and named it one of his favorites of this Sundance 2012, and other critics have been similarly enamored. Watch the first trailer after the jump.

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The title The Surrogate, to me, immediately calls up impressions of a horror film or thriller, but the movie that has had John Hawkes attached is something else entirely. An emotional thriller, perhaps. The Surrogate is based on a true story and will feature the actor as “Mark O’Brien, a paraplegic polio victim who lived most of his life in an iron lung, paralyzed from the neck down.” But that’s only the setup; there’s quite a bit more to the story than that — it addresses a longing to experience one specific aspect of humanity that such a life would be removed from.

He’s now joined by Helen Hunt, playing the role alluded to in the film’s title, and Moon Bloodgood and Rhea Perlman are on board, too. Read More »

John Hawkes Cast in ‘Surrogate’

The last couple years have been good for John Hawkes. A career of smallish roles and a few very notable attention-getting turns (a notable Deadwood character, the lead in Me and You and Everyone We Know) led to Easbound and Down. With a raised his profile the actor ended up in the excellent film Winter’s Bone, for which he was nominated for an Oscar. While he didn’t win, that’s a pretty huge step for a guy who audiences might not have recognized on the street just a few years ago.

He’s got a role in the Sundance fave Martha Marcy May Marlene, has shot a part in Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion and is now staying indie with the drama Surrogate, based on the life of poet and journalist Mark O’Brien. Read More »

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