By: Addison Wylie
Fat is light on a traditional plot. However, what Mark Phinney’s directorial debut lacks in regularity is reimbursed by a meaningful portrayal of human behaviour. I’m even hesitant to call Fat a character study since the focus is so widespread across its cast.
Overcoming a death in his family and a difficult break-up, Ken turns to food for relief. But, what started as a coping mechanism has taken over Ken’s life in the form of a serious overeating addiction. He eats because he’s bored and he sneaks a bite when he hears others talk about hearty meals. His weight is also the first lifeline he grasps onto when he needs to be social or break the ice; even if that means resorting to passive aggressive self-deprecation.
Mel Rodriguez, in one of my favourite performances from a leading male in 2015, is compelling as Ken. The trailer for Fat makes Ken appear obnoxiously defensive, but that isn’t the case with Phinney’s film. Ken’s as stubborn as a mule, but he’s also very charismatic and relatable. Rodriguez is very perceptive to the action around him, and he’s able to roll with the punches if another character challenges him. The actor is able to feel out the environment around him, time out awkward confrontations immaculately, and moderate Ken’s protected feelings as well as his rare vulnerability. It’s a great role for Rodriguez to craft while sending clear messages about feeling judged or criticized by looking different.
Ken’s friendly personality is what his friends find so inviting, but those same pals are also aware (and fairly immune) to Ken’s standoffish attitudes and opinions. Terry (played exceptionally by Jason Dugre) sticks by Ken’s side through thick and thin. When Terry sensitively address issues such as Ken’s body odour or finding romance for his friend, we witness Dugre administer an ideal balance of sympathy and tough love. Terry, who (like many) end up getting caught in Ken’s line of fire, holds his own well when Ken allows a relapse to cut ties and burn bridges in a final act that seems somewhat inspired by The Wrestler.
I enjoyed Fat quite a bit, but I admit the film leans too heavily on indie musical interludes. I started wondering if the songs in the background were intentionally narrating scenes. The film also doesn’t have Phinney using all of his resources to create a unique, definable vision for his budding career. Considering the film was primarily focused on emotions underneath the surface, a jazzy presentation was probably never in the cards – let’s face it.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie