If there’s been a film like this one before, I’m not aware of it. Writer-director Mark Phinney, with his feature debut Fat, is unflinchingly frank about the physical problems faced by Bostonian Ken (Mel Rodriguez: Little Miss Sunshine) because of his extreme obesity. It’s not merely a few extra pounds Ken is carrying around: he’s sweating profusely and gasping for breath merely getting dressed in the morning, and his size makes it tough for him to clean himself, in the shower or after using the toilet, as Rodriguez’s fearlessness, which is naked both literally and figuratively, makes perfectly plain. Food is a drug for Ken, and the uncomfortable raw honesty in how Phinney depicts Ken’s desperation, all momentary visceral pleasure turned to anguish drowning in self-hatred, makes a perfect terrible sense once you know that this is based on Phinney’s own experiences.
And yet… As with many addicts, Ken’s compulsions make him a not-very-nice person to be around, but just as I was coming to have some sympathy for him, he reveals himself to be a raging asshole in ways that have nothing to do with his weight or his addiction and everything to do with being self-centered and entitled, up to and including being clueless enough to think that the only reason why his life sucks is because he’s fat. I’m sure that is a deliberate choice on the film’s part; as someone who has struggled with weight her whole life (though thankfully on nowhere near the level Ken does), I am familar with the delusion that surely life will be perfect if only you lose X pounds, which can blind you to any other issues you need to work on. But Ken is such an ill-mannered creepazoid, particularly around women, that it’s tough to see what good qualities he must have for his friend Terry (Jason Dugre) to stick by him. It’s impossible to see what a new girlfriend, Audrey (Ashley Lauren), finds interesting enough about him to want to hang out with him. I wanted a reason to root for Ken to get over himself and start on a path to wellness, and I just couldn’t find one.