Helen Hunt says courage can take many forms. "Sometimes brave is saving someone from drowning," the actress says. "This is a different kind of brave."
Hunt's version of fearlessness is her emotionally and physically naked performance as the sex surrogate Cheryl Cohen Greene in "The Sessions." The movie, inspired by a true story, focuses on Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes), a Berkeley author who chiefly lives in an iron lung due to childhood polio. Approaching age 40, O'Brien, who can't move any of his limbs but is not impotent, decides he wants to lose his virginity. He enlists Greene for the mission.
As written and directed by Ben Lewin, himself a polio survivor, "The Sessions" follows O'Brien's panic over the conjugal visits and Greene's struggles with his disability and her attachment to him. The movie, which won two awards at January's Sundance Film Festival, is refreshingly, and often comically, candid about sexuality, "exquisitely and excruciatingly intimate," in Hunt's words.
That frankness required a bold commitment from Hunt, the 49-year-old Oscar-winning veteran of "As Good as It Gets." Greene talks about penises and vaginas the way a car mechanic discusses carburetors and oil filters. But sex therapy isn't just about language; a surrogate's job in most cases is to actually have sex with the client, so Hunt in "The Sessions" bares a lot more than her soul.