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‘The Sessions’ provides lessons in sex and sensitivity

Fox Searchlight Pictures

It was hard to picture how “The Sessions” (2012) would ever navigate its subject, real-life polio victim Mark O’Brien’s quest to lose his virginity, iron lung be damned. Yes, the late O’Brien, a Berkeley journalist and poet, had written about his experience going to a sex therapist, so there was something of a template. (He was also profiled in the 1996 documentary “Breathing Lessons.”) But what tone to expect from a dramatization? Cloying? Intolerably depressing? Even, dare it be said, a bit of the same gaping that “L.A. Law” did at the whole sex-surrogacy concept way back when? None of the above. John Hawkes, Oscar nominee Helen Hunt, and writer-director Ben Lewin deliver a dramatically measured and wryly humorous film that’s moving without being draining. Hawkes, a chameleonic wonder in the otherwise overrated “Winter’s Bone,” similarly disappears into his role here, a mix of anxiety and anticipation, of matter-of-fact strength and suppressed
despair. Hunt, as Salem native Cheryl Cohen Greene, does brave work (you wonder what sort of career spike Hunt might see) and intriguingly bookends her performance as a paraplegic’s lover in 1992’s “The Waterdance.” William H. Macy is key to the lighter moments as a hipster priest advising O’Brien; Moon Bloodgood (“Faster”) is a surprise as O’Brien’s acerbically witty caretaker. Extras: Cast interviews; on Blu-ray, a segment with Lewin, 66, himself a polio survivor. (Fox, $22.98; Blu-ray, $29.99)

ACTION

SKYFALL (2012)

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For James Bond’s 23d outing and Daniel Craig’s third, 007 gets shaken and stirred — or, more specifically, left for dead, then forced to revisit his repressed past by baddie Javier Bardem. Craig’s performance lacks some of the ruthless edge we’ve come to expect, and so does Bardem’s, but the action is late-model Bond at his best, and there are some clever continuity tweaks. Extras: A hi-def featurette highlights the insane opener, while another segment breaks down the credit sequence. The Blu-ray includes commentary by Sam Mendes (“Revolutionary Road”), an unexpected directing choice for a franchise hardly known for them. (MGM, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99)

DRAMA

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (2012)

You might come mostly to check out what else Emma Watson is up to post-Hermione, but you’ll stay for the nuanced adolescent-misfit drama. Logan Lerman (“Percy Jackson”) is the introverted, troubled high school freshman who finds much needed friends in alt-minded seniors Sam (Watson) and out-and-proud Patrick (Ezra Miller, “We Need to Talk About Kevin”). After getting past early hazing clichés, writer-director-source novelist Stephen Chbosky sketches confused teen portraits that can feel pretty true to life. Extras: Commentaries by
Chbosky, including a track with Lerman, Watson, and Miller. (Summit, $19.98; Blu-ray, $24.99)

Tom Russo can be reached at trusso2222@gmail.com.
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