By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Occasionally, films come along which absolutely turn people’s stomachs, make audiences uncomfortable and just leave some feeling miserable. However, a filmmaker can justify eliciting these responses from an audience if that is the intended effect. Films, whether well or poorly made can have these effects on their audiences. If a writer/director has a purpose in making an audience member upset or even sick, then one has to question the validity of his or her message. For my second film of SXSW Film 2015, I sat through a Midnighter that nearly made me sick to my stomach. However, I could see the genuine value of that feeling. The film is titled Excess Flesh, and despite its flaws, it certainly made quite a powerful impression that could not be denied.
Written by Sigrid Gilmer who co-wrote with director Patrick Kennelly, Excess Flesh acerbically critiques the fashion world’s negative impact on people and how it can lead to unhealthy dieting and lifestyle choices. Roommates Jill and Jennifer couldn’t possibly be more different. Jennifer (Mary Loveless) works as a model, has what the industry considers to be an ideal figure, and voraciously whets her appetite for men and food, purging both when satiated. Jill (Bethany Orr) is a timid and depressed woman who wants to be like Jill, but often locks herself in her room and often binges on food to soothe her sadness. Both are truly unhappy people, but Jennifer tends to take out her unhappiness on the meek Jill, until she cannot take it anymore.
Kennelly and Gilmer definitely show some promising talent with Excess Flesh. For a first time feature film, the filmmakers effectively convey their overall message and do so with some striking and disturbing visual compositions. Definitely the cinematography by Benjamin Conley and the sharp editing by Cristina Bercovitz and Patrick Kennelly work beautifully. The writing and story direction does go to an odd and disorienting place. By the time the film reaches its climax and conclusion, the message has already been delivered clearly and concisely. The confusing twist in the end feels unnecessary and hackneyed.
Bethany Orr and Mary Loveless deliver extraordinary performances. The film leaves its audiences with a similar feeling that Requiem for a Dream does. This is most definitely a disturbing case of cinematic tough love. Requiem for a Dream should dissuade any intelligent person from taking hard drugs. Excess Flesh should dissuade people from unhealthy dieting practices.