I really liked the premise of this “women and weight” film, and it has a few truly powerful concepts in it. But overall, the caliber of both the writing and the acting end up destroying all the elements that could’ve stuck with me for a while and provoked additional thought. Argh, is there anything worse than a wasted brilliant idea? I say there isn’t. And repeat to you: Argh.
The story opens with a fat-acceptance group, where an obese young lady, Lydia, is struggling with the desire to accept her body as it is, while also fighting to make it something else — Cartesian Dualism at its finest and most relatable. During the meeting, she tells the others she wants to start a “fat people” walking group, and the room rebels against her, arguing that exercise is about weight loss and is therefore counter-productive to the group’s goals. Lydia tries to explain she merely wants to feel healthy and strong, not lose weight, but the group becomes more and more agitated the more she attempts to explain her motivations. Frustrated, Lydia gives up and merely announces she’ll be starting that Saturday, if anyone decides they want to come.
Just then, a tall, rail-thin woman named Darcy walks in and sits down. Suddenly, all eyes are on her and after a few beats of puzzled silence, someone finally asks her what the hell she’s doing there. Darcy tells the group she’s a recovering anorexic and that she, too, is wrestling with the issue of body acceptance. She still sees herself as “fat,” which fuels her anorexia, she tells them, and she’s desperate to get better. Once again, the group flips out, ultimately telling Darcy she simply isn’t welcome there.
Nice group, this gang.
After the meeting is over, Lydia finds Darcy sitting outside and strikes up a conversation. As time goes on and they continue to meet up and talk, the two become sort of uncomfortable friends — one opening up about her body image issues and resultant behaviors, while the other one tries (and usually fails) to understand them.
Doesn’t that sound really intriguing? I thought so too. Only, the thing is, it’s also just plain awful. (See above, re: Argh!)
To begin with, the dialogue sounds like a string of well-practiced, badly delivered speeches about body acceptance and weight. Instead of sounding like two friends trying to understand each other, it’s way too prepped and comes out sounding preachy and unnatural instead. Even worse, though, is actress Staci Lawrence (Darcy), who monotones her way through every discussion and reveals no character chemistry whatsoever with Lydia. I liked Lydia a lot, but by the end of the film, I didn’t believe for a second she’d be friends with someone as incredibly dull — not to mention outright cruel at times (Darcy openly tells Lydia at one point that she finds Lydia’s body “disgusting”) — as Darcy.
I think part of the problem is that the screenwriter clearly had a soft spot and deep understanding of what Lydia was struggling with, but no clue whatsoever as to what drives someone like Darcy — an anorexic. Darcy is portrayed as being practically psychotically mentally ill, when in reality, Lydia, it could be argued, is pretty much exactly like her. In our country, anorexia is generally considered to be a psychiatric disorder, and being overweight is considered either an issue of genetics practically out of anyone’s control or a moral failing (or both). Though the film sympathizes with Lydia, it keeps the line between these two things firmly etched — Lydia is struggling with normal issues, but Darcy is SICK.
The thing is, having experienced both overeating and undereating in my life (and both to unhealthy extremes, I should add), I feel like the two problems stem from the same kinds issues. Is there really a difference between being obese and being anorexic? In terms of the things that drive those behaviors? Wouldn’t it have been interesting if this film had tried to highlight more of the women’s similarities than their differences? Is undereating somehow worse than overeating? Or vice versa? The lack of exploration of the parallels between the two characters, which were striking to me yet mostly ignored by the film, was one of the most disappointing elements of this picture.
I think this is a movie a lot of women would enjoy watching, despite it’s many, many weaknesses. I also wanted to give the filmmakers a huge, gigantic THUMBS UP for featuring an incredibly steamy love scene between two overweight characters, and for exploring the issues surrounding gastric bypass surgery (Lydia’s reaction to her boyfriend’s announcement he’s having the surgery was a truly solid scene). But when the credits rolled, I mostly felt let-down rather than inspired to give new thought to the issues brought to bear in the story. There’s really nothing worse than a stellar idea fumbled by someone too clumsy to handle its complexities, and that was the problem with disFIGURED from start to finish. Rats.
[Netflix it | Buy it]
Cast: Deidra Edwards, Staci Lawrence, Ryan C. Benson, Elizabeth Sampson, Sonya Eddy