In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_aprsjzadl6cggwjedxexw7kfnbc

Transcendence

"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.

Thumb_heaven_is_for_real

Heaven Is for Real

Faith-based film tries reaching past its audience, but falls back on preaching to its own choir way too much.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Far Flunger Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Fatso

  |  

Two basic dramatic approaches to fatness are to regard it as comic, or tragic. Anne Bancroft has somehow avoided both approaches in "Fatso," a movie with the unique distinction of creating in its audiences an almost constant suspense about how they're supposed to be reacting. The movie itself just doesn't know: "Fatso" has a director, a screenplay and a cast who are all uncertain about how they really feel about overweight.

Example. The movie's hero (Dom DeLuise), frightened by the death at age 39 of his fat cousin, begins to attend "Chubby Checker" meetings, apparently intended to be a cross between Overeaters Anonymous and Weight Watchers. Each program member has his own "checker, " and can call him day or night whenever he feels an overwhelming urge to eat. DeLuise padlocks all the kitchen cupboards, is overcome by the urge to eat and calls up his checker. Two checkers race out to his house and, what with one thing leading to another, all three chubbies wind up gorging themselves on pizza, ice cream and anything else they can find.

Not particularly funny material to begin with. But Bancroft's approach to it is so ambiguous we're thoroughly confused. There's a key moment when it's clear that the three fatsos are about to break down. The movie has a quick edit to them stirring up a bowl of chocolate frosting. That could have cued us to laugh, if the edit had been to a closeup, say, of DeLuise licking the spoon. But what camera position does Bancroft choose for the cut? She puts her camera directly overhead in the kitchen, and shoots straight down!

She couldn't have done a better job of finding a camera angle that leaves us totally at sea. The whole movie has problems with camera placement - "Fatso's" an education in reverse about how often our audience reactions are cued by editing and angles - and there are times when the story's so uneasy with itself we wonder if the filmmakers wish they had a different subject.

Maybe they do. Food addiction is a subject a lot of us are very ambiguous about. It doesn't have the seriousness - even the perverse dismal glamour - of alcohol or drug addiction, and yet at the same time we no longer feel comfortable laughing about it: Falstaff's complexities are beginning to sink in. It will be a very long time before our thinking about overweight grows empathetic and sophisticated enough that the subject can inspire its own "The Panic in Needle Park" or "Days of Wine and Roses," and, in the meantime, "Fatso" is a definitive example of how not to approach the subject.

Besides. I don't want to be picky, but ... Dom DeLuise isn't really that fat.

Popular Blog Posts

Hashtag Activism and the #CancelColbert campaign

The recent #CancelColbert campaign on Twitter raises all kinds of issues about racism, but also about hashtag activism.

For the love of it: notes on the decline of Entertainment Weekly, the firing of Owen Gleiberman, and the ongoing end of an era

Owen Gleiberman's sacking as lead film critic of Entertainment Weekly — part of a ritual bloodletting of staffers at ...

Able-Bodied Actors and Disability Drag: Why Disabled Roles are Only for Disabled Performers

Scott Jordan Harris argues that disabled characters should not be played by able-bodied actors.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus