Lbs.

Rating:

DIY Fat Camp

Main Cast: Carmine Famiglietti, Michael Aranov

Director: Matthew Bonifacio

We live in a very, very fat country that idolizes, idealizes and obsesses over extreme thinness.  That is one screwed up national psyche.  Among the results is a bevy of extreme weight loss reality shows as well as countless TV shows and films with overweight characters who talk of nothing but losing weight.  We know these things aren’t real (even the “reality” shows), but we’re fascinated by them, both the successes and failures.  The low budget indie film Lbs. presents us with a combination of reality show and film as we watch Carmine Famiglietti, in the character of Neil Perota, face his weight demons in his very own, quirky extreme weight loss program.

Neil is fat.  He isn’t overweight, he’s obese – and morbidly so.  Even his body thinks so as he has a heart attack on the job.   His uncontrolled eating creates tension with his family, his friends and pretty much dictates his life.  He needs to do something.  So he moves away.  Not just away from his family, away from everything that’s familiar and filled with temptation.  Buying a piece of land in the middle of nowhere he sets out on a sort of survivalist weight loss program that involves walking everywhere, making his own meals and roughing it in a pretty minimalist environment.  He initially brings along his drug addict friend Sacco (Michael Aranov), but they soon part ways as neither can come to terms with the addiction of the other.  Once Neil is really, truly on his own, he has to fend for himself for the first time in his life – and deal with those many, many extra Lbs.

What a great example this movie is of being able to put together a moving, well produced film with no budget.  Both Famiglietti and director Matthew Bonifacio have worked in the entertainment industry for years, but neither is a “name”.  The original script for Lbs. was written by Famiglietti – this is a movie that was made, slowly, as he lost the weight that was killing him.  On the movie’s official web site, he reveals that it was shot on 46 days, spread out over 27 months – filmed as he lost weight and fit into the scripted scenes.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie that could so appropriately be described as a labor of love on the parts of every cast and crew member.

What they manage to put on the screen is touching and feels real; probably because the core of it all is real – Neil’s addiction to food mirrors that of Famiglietti.  The beginning of the film is a little rocky, with bad music and a lot of places that feel too much like “acting”.  Once Neil moves out to the country, the entire production loosens up and becomes less restrained, feels less tightly scripted and more relaxed.  Neil’s character is allowed to emerge once he is away from the smothering confines of his family and his temptations.  His road isn’t perfectly smooth, but it’s his road – he isn’t doing it for anyone but himself.

Famiglietti nails this role – he owns it from start to finish.  He isn’t playing himself here, and after that rocky start he really inhabits Neil and makes him a person, not just a weight problem.  Michael Aranov also deserves kudos for his performance as Sacco.  His part isn’t large, but it frames the nature of addiction and the different roads that lead there.

It would be a mistake to see Lbs. as a documentary or docudrama.  It’s an entirely different animal and Neil is not Famiglietti.  They both struggle with their weight, but after that the two part ways – this is definitely a movie, with an actor playing a character (albeit one with whom he shares a major issue), not the story of how Famiglietti lost weight.

I wish every little indie I saw for free, streaming on Netflix, was even close to as good as Lbs.  There is a lot of love in this movie, but love isn’t enough.  There are also good performances and a really intriguing connection between the film and the filmmakers.  Definitely recommended for anyone who appreciates a well made low budget indie with some soul.  4 stars out of 5.

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