Fatso (1980)

| February 1, 1980

I haven’t the slightest idea what kind of movie Anne Bancroft set out to make here.  She seems to have wanted to make a comedy about fat people that would travel along the same lines as the movies that her husband makes.  But at the same time, she also, apparently, wants to make a serious statement about obesity and the often-fruitless endeavors of weight loss programs.  And, okay yes, done with the lightest touch, this material could make for a very good bittersweet comedy.

The problem is that we’re not sure from one moment to the next what kind of movie we’re watching.  It’s a guessing game designed to challenge you to determine how you’re supposed to feel about it.  That wouldn’t be such a problem if we had the sense that Bancroft actually knew the answer.

Dom DeLuise plays Dominick DiNapoli, a man who has struggled with his weight all his life – actually he’s pudgy and not really fat, but in spite of this he has an eating disorder.  When his cousin dies suddenly from overeating, Dominick slides into a long self-examination regarding his physical health.  He joins a weight loss program called Chubby Checker, a program whose system is to assign each of the members a “checker,” a person who call when you get the urge to raid the refrigerator.

Dominick goes through all of the standard fat person cliches.  He starts by chaining up the cabinets in his kitchen and the refrigerator.  Nobody does this, by the way.  A weight loss program is designed to help you re-establish how you eat, not to keep you from eating.  Anyway, he gets the urge and suddenly his checkers come over and the three of them end up raiding the kitchen and gorging on junk food.

That’s not funny in and of itself, but with careful editing it could be.  But Bancroft edits this movie to ribbons so that jokes are cut off before they even begin.  What did she think she was doing here?  Apparently creating a film so chaotic that the audience is not exactly sure what their reactions are suppose to be.

Look there is a good movie to be made about food addiction and weight loss just as there are good movies about drug addiction.  The problem here is that Bancroft is so inept at constructing even the slightest scene to relate to the audience that we aren’t sure how to feel about it.  This movie eats itself alive.

Reviewed March 9, 2021

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
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