'Lbs.' looks food addiction in the face
You want to know what it's like to be addicted to food?
Watch this movie called "Lbs."
"Lbs." is about a guy named Neil Perota, who, at 27, lives at home with his Brooklyn-Italian folks. His mom likes to cook, and Neil loves to eat. So much so that he weighs more than 300 pounds. His heart attack days before his sister's wedding sets the story in motion; Neil leaves home, telling only one childhood friend where he's going. He buys a remote lot with a couple of decrepit trailers in the boondocks of upstate New York. During his year living there he loses weight. I'm not going to spoil the story by sharing further details. Nor am I going to critique the film as a film; leave that to the critics.
But better than any other movie I've seen (including Super Size Me, which debuted at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival the same year "Lbs." did), "Lbs." makes you understand what it feels like to be fat and resigned to being that way. It shows what life is like when food is the most important thing in your life and holds more power over you than anything else. "I love food -- it fills the void," Neil says.
Refreshingly, "Lbs." points no especial finger at a fast-food conspiracy. In fact, some of Neil's most beloved foods come from his mother's kitchen or from diner-style restaurants with signs for $3 "special breakfast" and the like. (Though he does eat far more than his share of fast food, too.) These are the places he goes when he's feeling bad. And he feels bad an awful lot.
Much of the film is, by design, painful to watch. Neil's gorging binges are horrific, especially as he appears helpless and out of control as he shoves food in his mouth.
"Lbs." does a credible job of likening food addiction to drug addiction, and seeing the movie may persuade some who regard obese people as spineless creatures who simply lack will power to reconsider. There's lots of psychology behind Neil's foodaholism.
Neil is played by Carmine Famiglietti, who wrote the screenplay with director Matthew Bonifacio. Famiglietti weighed nearly 400 pounds when he began the project; during the course of its production and filming he, lost 170 pounds. We don't know how things will turn out for Neil. Sadly, Bonifacio reports that his friend Famiglietti has regained most of what he lost.
"Lbs." isn't perfect. (One does wonder, for instance, where the unemployed Neil gets money to buy all that food.) But it paints a surprisingly rounded, nuanced portrait of a fat guy, and without pandering, it highlights the daily, life-long struggles of one for whom food has become so much more than fuel.
"Lbs." is playing this Friday at the E Street Cinema.
Jennifer LaRue Huget
May 3, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Me Minus 10 , Obesity
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