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As she portrays Kate, a Stepford type wife living the American dream-
her husband is an attorney, she has a beautiful house and great
kids...yet what is missing? Ben Masters is also very effective as the
"perfect" husband, handsome and successful, but oblivious to his wife's
illness. This film was made when bulimia was still taboo- and anorexia
was considered the vogue(guess things haven't changed that much, at
least in the entertainment industry). There are some excellent scenes,
such as when Kate caters a party and stares at the sumptuous food-but
will not eat until she is alone-away from people. There is also a hint
that her mother is somewhat responsible- nothing that Kate does is ever
good enough, etc.
Once Kate is hospitalized, she meets Tracy Nelson, a model who is pressured into anorexia for her profession. Nelson is sympathetic and believable; saying how everyone loves her when she weighs 96 lbs. Liz Torres is also very good as an overweight bulimic patient, who starts crying in group therapy, saying she probably represents every pretty girl's worst nightmare- obesity. Then Nelson counters with ..."I hate myself too; I think I look just like you, when I look in the mirror"...
Clearly, this illness is complex, and this film treats it as such. I would also recommend "Hunger Point" (with Barbara Hershey) and "For the Love of Nancy" (Tracey Gold and Jill Clayburgh), which deal with similar issues in a sensitive yet realistic manner. If you have a daughter or friend suffering with this disease, these films address crucial issues.
Let me say that this was one of the most visible TV movies to focus on
'closeted bulimia'. In this made for TV film, you have what seems to be
the perfectly wonderfully "looking" wife who kept her secret of
binging, exercising and purging until her body could not take it
anymore - then her secret was out.
At the time this movie was aired, I didn't care to see it - I thought it was just another one of those overblown melodramatic features about selfish folks and their selfish chase after materialism. I thought I'd never meet any folks like this. But time has a way of exposing you to the truth.
Around the very same time this movie came out, after my graduation from college, I hadn't a lot of money from my new job so I had to live in an apartment building that catered to young working month to month people. We all discovered each other - and there I met a woman who every man was falling over. She was pretty, erotic, skinny. Everywhere she went men fell all over her. She was the kind of woman who could buy a man's undershirt and put it on (without underwear, mind you!)and make it look like a dress. She made me, who was of regular height and the right weight for my height feel really, really, fat. I went out to dinner on several occasions with my new friend. And she could put away the food! I thought "Wow!" and here I am...watching what I eat and I still don't look like this. What was her secret? By accident, I found out. She would buy BOTTLES of Senecot and take them promptly after each meal. When I confronted her about this her answer: "It's okay. My mom taught me how to do this. I need to look like this or men wont come near me - just like they don't come near you." At that time, I knew I could not talk any sense into her and just a few weeks after I discovered her secret, she moved away from the building.
Years later I actually sat down and watched this program - then and only then could I identify with each and every character. Especially during the group session scenes where the heaviest woman there said, "You all are afraid of looking like me." And another scene where this character's husband wascommenting on how one of the women makes $1,000 an hour and she couldn't because she was "a fat slob." That hit home. Hits home for many women. And because there was so much pressure on looking great to be on the arm of some guy, women DO go through horrible things just to be a "doll"/"trophy" figure, instead of men (and women) just loving people the way they are -- AND letting them know just that.
Did I say ... was? That this the beauty of this film. Done in 1986, it's 2006 and nothing has really changed. The same old ideals that put these characters in the position they're in, has only gotten worse. The difference is that there are tons of diet (oh forgive me for writing 'diet', I mean 'weight loss') pills and products consistently shoved down the faces of women. (I mean, the other day when they showed this film on Lifetime TV network, every other commercial was on weight-loss!!! SHAME ON YOU!!!) There is nothing wrong with looking or feeling good. There is nothing wrong with controlling and maintaining a healthy weight. But Bullemia (and anorexia) distorts that view, that though process. Add in media messages, female celebrities that are rails but look great in designer dresses at award events, music messages that constantly degrade women, personal family issues -- what can women do?!?! Closeted Bullemia has not gone away. Women are not feeling better about themselves and sadly 20 years later, nothing has been done to help - only hurt the situation.
"Kate's Secret" is a good film, and a nice place to start to show to every man and woman to begin the understanding of what many women feel they must go through just to be accepted in this society. But even in showing a film like this, there are going to be, women who were young once like me, who may not fully understand or have compassion for what is in the film - until it gets close to you.
This movie tells the story of Kate, a beautiful housewife and mother who's constantly exercising, and eating lightly, but who goes on binges for food and desserts. She then goes and "gets rid" of the food in her stomach. Her secret is finally disclosed when she's driving her little girl home from scouts, and she passes out while driving. Her little girl is fine, but the doctor discovers that Kate is bulimic, and tells her husband about her condition, Kate has many battles trying to overcome her problem in the clinic for anorexia and bulimic women, but finally gets on the road to recovery. Meredith Baxter was fabulous as Kate!
Meredith Baxter Birney who played Kate was excellent. It showed her as a closet bulimic. She is so into having a perfect body. She is constantly exercising, running, watching her calories during the day, but when she's starved herself too much, she ends up binging on food secretly at night at her home, or going out to one fast food place to another gorging on burgers, fries and anything she can get her hands on. She even has her little daughter exercising and waters down her daughter's juice to curb HER calories. It takes a toll on her body and she has some dizzy and fainting spells along with a car crash while she's transporting her daughter. Her husband has never caught on about her secret. Finally she is found out about. This is an excellent movie. Meredith Baxter Birney is the best!
Meredith Baxter Birney moonlights from her sitcom gig as Elyse Keaton to play Kate, a suburban mother, housewife, and bulimic. This film was well-done on the topic. It shows how a normal person like Kate could eat and binge before self-induced vomiting out in the sink or toilets. I remember watching her going to the store and eating everything in sight and hiding it from her family only to vomit later and say something like something didn't agree with me. When she's caught, she's got to go to rehab and face her bulimia. She does give a good performance as Kate. Baxter was known to moonlight in television movies during her Family Ties years. She wasn't the only one. I always loved watching familiar faces pop up when I least expect it and knowing them from somewhere else. It's a shame that NBC doesn't make movies anymore or comedies.
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