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When I saw this movie on the shelf at a video store. I rented it for the title alone. I didn't even read the back. I guess because there are leg men, feet men, and by now you can guess what kind I am. I had no idea what I was in for when I started watching this movie. It was directed beautifully and I think David Schwimmer did a good job. However I don't think this movie belonged in the comedy section of the video store. Very few of the scenes in this movie were funny to me. In fact after the movie was over I felt guilty for my original reason for renting this movie. Since then I've watched the movie several times, and each time I feel like I understand how women feel a little better. If you enjoy social documentary type films this is one you have to watch. It will leave you feeling like that movie wasn't that bad at all.
This is a truly odd film, with a style and tone quite unlike any other I've seen; while the first two thirds is darkly comic in a quite gentle, embarrassment-not-pain kind of way, the end descends into a very sombre, serious half hour before the final shocking moment. Presented as a life-story of some (presumably at least semi-fictitious) pioneers of silicon breast enlargement, along with snippets from some "documentary" (real or otherwise, it's not clear) featuring women discussing (and exposing) their breasts, it spans over several decades in a typical up-down-up trajectory. David Schwimmer, looking youthful and a little goofy, plays the lead, a young, ambitious, slightly breast-fixated (here's most of the comedy bits) doctor who comes up with an idea for a new form of breast enhancement. The idea is followed through initial scorn, industrial manipulation, to success and popularity before the hideous problems associated with inserting silicon into the body become clear. Many of the issues involved in the topic are addressed in some form or other, from those who need such surgery due to genuine breast problems down to the question of how far such enhancement can be justified ethically, balancing the desire of women to be perceived as "normal" and attractive against the creation of circus freaks with unnaturally large bosoms. The film does give a good, balanced insight into the subject matter, but the presentation is odd, the mood of the film strangely skewed; neither Schwimmer's lead nor his mentor present particularly likeable characters, the change of tone near the end leaves the viewer with the feeling of having watched a gritty drama rather than the comedy advertised, and the portrayal of women in the piece is far from empowering; those in the film itself are rarely more than caricatures, pairs of breasts to be reconstructed, while the "talking heads" featured in the documentary snippets are more "talking breasts", the lack of faces somehow dehumanising the interviewees and turning them into the freakshow some of them so want to escape (though some are clearly quite happy that their breasts are their defining characteristic). The filmmakers have made a lot of effort here, and it is perhaps a little unfortunate that the balance between humour and serious issue-probing is not well worked. A patchy, interesting but very strange movie which could have been a lot better, it is still worth a watch, but perhaps more as education than entertainment.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
About two pounds of fatty tissue and 34 lactiferous ducts. Nothing more
than modified sweat glands. Platypuses don't have them; the females
just ooze a nutrient-enriched sweat from their bellies. Most of the
three or four thousand cultures we have information on don't care
whether they're big or small, or whether anybody else sees them or not.
So why do bosoms cause so much trouble?
Dr. Saunders (Schwimmer) is a recent med school graduate. Dr. Larson (Cooper) is an older reconstructive surgeon. They couldn't be more mismatched. Larson is conservative and arrogant. He wears suits and ties. Saunders is an inventive Schmuck with a droopy face and childishly peeved voice that's all the funnier when it tries to express outrage. They become partners and Larson funds Saunders' invention, a kind of Blue Ice for breasts. But no plastic surgeon becomes an overnight star. Larson and Saunders are ridiculed by other staff at the Texas Medical Center -- "beauticians". Larson sits alone at a party, drunk, and is finally approached by another doctor who gestures at an empty chair. "Anybody using this?" he asks. "Help yourself," replies Larson. The other guy picks up the empty chair and walks off with it.
Saunders, though, is a salesman. It was infra-dig for doctors to advertise. But Saunders implants an ad in the local paper, so to speak, that generates enough business to make both of them filthy rich. Larson starts to hog all the credit. The two men go their separate ways.
On his own, Saunders forges ahead with the willing compliance of his patients. "So when can we schedule?", they ask him eagerly. His patients begin to speak in public of the empowerment they now feel with their bigger bosoms. And the bosoms get bigger and bigger. They go from around 200 ccs to double that. Some of the breasts become monstrous soccer balls, so grotesquely out of proportion that the patients have trouble finding clothes. The dissatisfied, the distorted, the bereft flock to Saunders to be reborn. Saunders gets into the 70s thing. Disco, coke, a Playboy mansion of his own. His maid takes a visitor through the bunny-filled 14-million-square-foot megabarn and points out the "real marble" floors and mentions that "there are lots of impressionist paintings -- from France." Saunders sucks fruit-juice cocktails through a twirled neon-green plastic straw. He's Citizen Saunders.
Then the downhill plunge. We are by now into the age of Oprah and Phil. A handful of ex-patients who have gotten diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis turn up on TV and sensationalize their illnesses, blaming them on Dr. Saunders and his damme implants. Feminists claim that before their implants they were treated with respect at the bank. Now their fellow employees whistle at them and ogle them. The lawyers descend on the problem like a flock of vultures. Trouble with your implants? "Call 1-800-RUPTURE." Suits are brought against the company manufacturing the implants, although the link between illness and implants is more emotional than scientific. Both doctors businesses bite the dust. Larson dies of a heart attack, Saunders when his Porsche is mangled by an 18-wheeler.
It shouldn't be funny but it is. Both of these guys are rapacious in their own separate ways -- Larson for money and fame, Saunders for the satisfaction of his stimulus hunger. They're as transparent in their needs as Harpo Marx. And the poor guys can't escape the breasts. The breasts are all around them, haunting them. They can't go to a private club without some ex-patient lap dancing and thrusting her hypermastic chest into their faces. Their eggs, sunnyside up, look like two breast with nipples. A birthday cake for Larson looks like it's decorated with a simulacrum of Mt. Everest, with K-2 right next door. The bottom of Saunders' swimming pool is decorated with a painting of a pair of breasts.
And there is humor in the dialog as well. At the beginning, Saunders has finally found his first volunteer, a sexy young woman willing to have her breasts molded in plastic. She stands there wrinkling her nose with distaste at Saunders' modest apartment. "I thought doctors were supposed to -- have money," she comments acidly. Saunders is meanwhile plastering her breasts with goo, smoothing the stuff, squeezing her breasts. "How about after?" he asks. "Maybe we could go bowling."
The movie is really quite amusing, and it's a good lesson in sociology too. The human brain seems to prefer simple solutions to complicated ones. Thus, for instance, a lot of viewers are likely to blame Drs. Larson and Saunders for the whole crazy fad of huge breasts. But, simple as such apportionment of blame may be, it would be wrong. It takes two to tango -- or in this case, many more than two. The women are only too happy to have their breasts change. First, a little bigger, then gargantuan, then smaller again, and maybe a little bigger next time. But it's not only the women who are to blame. They operate within a cultural setting that in some ways they see as demanding a perfection of them that they simply can't offer. And who's behind that culture? Men? Well, yes, in a way too. But men in other cultures don't ordinarily care whether their mates have big breasts or not. Our own men didn't either, back in the 1920s, when flappers bound their bosoms to make them smaller. Something rotten in the culture? If so, then all cultures are rotten because they all decorate their bodies somehow -- with paint, tattoos, lip rings, neck bands, or scars.
The issue the movie really deals with is not breasts at all, but human nature. This could be the story of the hula hoop. That's what makes it funny. We can afford to laugh because, although it is ourselves we are laughing at, we're being ridiculed in a movie that disguises itself as a story about chests.
Breast men provides a decades long history of silicone breast implants
in the United States, from development by a Texas team of
reconstructive surgeons to their downfall at the hands of aggressive
litigation. Now that science has established no link between silicone
implants and connective tissue or other diseases, the film stands as a
commentary on both women's social drive for larger breasts (Is it that
men want larger breasts on their partners, or that women think men want
them to have larger breasts?) and the devastating effect the legal
system can have when driven by sympathy.
Mixed in with the storyline are comments from women, shown only in naked torso. They state why they want larger breasts, or how they feel about themselves with natural or enhanced physiques. Whether true or not, their comments have the ring of truth and give the film the air of authenticity; women dissatisfied with their appearance who long for "better" breasts. To their aid comes David Schwimmer, as a young doctor/inventor who devises an implant after seeing a neighbor trying out "bigger breast" creams and exercises. In partnership with Chris Cooper and Dow Corning, they develop the silicone breast implant and the procedure for installing it.
Their partnership appears foundering, until Schwimmer advertises (itself a medical no-no), which brings women in droves seeking a better look. Then the partnership angrily dissolves over money; Schwimmer ends up on the seamier side of breast enlargement, strippers and such. Cooper still works the richer clientele, until he is confronted at a medical convention by a woman with significant subcutaneous scarring and deformation. With lawyers blaming the doctors, and the Clinton-era FDA forcing withdrawal of the product, both doctors go down hard.
Emily Proctor provides a look from the female side. As a nurse her character is drawn to Schwimmer's dream of a "perfect body" for every woman, and at the same time slightly repulsed by talking openly about the subject.
What drives someone to plastic surgeons? More particularly, what drives a woman to want larger breasts? The film doesn't answer the questions, nor does it directly ask them, but when it's over the tragic consequences of wanting to look "perfect" lingers. The impact of lawyers on society, and in particular the medical malpractice profession, lingers as well. With a sympathetic clientele, and little good science on their side, a small group of lawyers literally brought down an industrial giant (Dow), and created panic among tens of thousands of women. Ten years later, science has clearly established they were wrong, but society has no mechanism for punishing the lawyers.
I started to watch "Breast men" completely accidentally because it just simply happened to be on and by chance I was suffering from a slight hangover so I was way too lazy to change the channel or even close my eyes. If I would have seen a warning newspaper in advance that said that they're going to show a true, tragicomical story about a two doctors who invented breast implants (starring David Schwimmer) I would have probably avoided the movie at all costs. Now when I was practically forced to watch it, I must admit that I kind of liked it. This is the type of a film you have to see all the way through once you've started. There was a lots of nudity (topless girls) and that's always a nice element in a film and surprisingly Schwimmer wasn't bad, actually this was an incredibly good performance from him. Best of all the story was definitely much more interesting than it sounds.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
HBO has a great knack at taking bits of history which we never think much
about, and turning them into incredibly entertaining movies. Example: This
breezy, very clever satire about the rise and fall of the two inventors of
the silicone breast implant.
The film deftly raises the central question about breast implants without forcing an answer upon it: Are they exploitive or theraputic? Sure, they seem like perverse objects invented by horny men, but if women really feel self-conscious about their breasts, why shouldn't they be allowed to improve them. This question is carried out through the movie, as we see a semi-inspired idea turn into an exploitation industry.
David Schwimmer and Chris Cooper star as the two doctors who come up with the idea of the implant, and both play there parts very well. Say what you want about Schwimmer, (I never liked him in other roles), he fairs pretty well here, as he almost constantly shifts from burnt-out loser to a man with new-found riches. But even if you don't like Schwimmer, Chris Cooper more than makes up for it. This has to be the most engaging performance so far in his career. He plays a past-his-prime doctor who is lucky enough to come across Schwimmer's breast ideas and finance the surgeries. He is a nice, agreagble man while you're on his side, but he bursts into fits of rage whenever his authority is questioned. The center of his performance is that, despite what he does, he wants to feel like a normal, respectable doctor. He steals every scene which he is in.
The film perfectly transports us back into the 1970's, emphasizing the point that back then, subtly didn't matter. (SLIGHT SPOILER WARNING). We follow the duo's path as split, grow from a practice into an industry, and finally are hammered by lawsuits. The film wisely makes no statements about whether or not the impants are harmful (as is should, since the facts are not yet in), but instead uses the event to highlight its characters personalities. The David Schwimmer character finds a way to skirt around the catastrophy while Chris Cooper raises hell about it. The film is also annotated by interviews with real women with breast implants, their identities concealed because (surprise!) the camera isn't centered on their heads. Their interviews help explain the emotional baggage which comes along with the implants.
In it's style, and the way it views sex as an industry rather than eroticism, Breast Men can be compared to Boogie Nights. I'll admit that Boogie Nights is a better film, but Breast Men is somehow easier to watch, mainly because it doesn't take itself so seriously. It finds the perfect note, dealing with its subject seriously enough to get the point across, and detached enough to still be hilarious.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With a title like "Breast Men", one would expect at least some
entertainment value, a little bit of cheesy humor, something that would
live up to the promise of the title. Well, friends, this movie fails to
deliver on almost every level. How, you may wonder, can this be? This
movie makes medical history, breasts, and the 60s, 70s, and 80s
boring--no small feat.
First off--yes, there are breasts. Lots of them. Large, small, droopy, and perky. Some of the talking head bits (well really talking breasts, since we see no heads), somewhat like those in the vastly superior "Kinsey", are mildly amusing. The two brightest elements in the film are Lisa Marie--as the model for the breast implant--and Emily Proctor, injecting a good deal of charm into what is a generally charmless firm.
The film follows the careers of Drs. Saunders (David Schwimmer) and Larson (Chris Cooper), the inventors of the breast implant. (Supposedly, the film is based on the actual inventors. Let us hope that their lives were somewhat more interesting.) We start with the stereotypes of the gruff older doctor (Cooper) and the young inventive hotshot (Schwimmer) and sink rapidly from there. Chris Cooper is a far better actor than one would guess from performance--all he is here is a bundle of crabbiness. David Schwimmer is far worse--does this man have any talent besides a hangdog look? Here, he goes from young and hangdog to sleazy and hangdog to sleazier and hangdog--it is a merciful relief (spoiler) when his Corvette gets mashed at the end of the film. He maintains one basic expression--constipated. (It would be interesting to match him with Kristin Scott Thomas, who also looks perpetually blocked...wait, that is just too dreadful to contemplate.) Oh yes, the music isn't bad, and the costumer designer and art director had some fun with some truly hideous 70s styles. But the visual delights are not enough. If you could roast this turkey, it would be completely lacking in taste and texture. (I give it a two only for the music and the art direction.) As Charlie Brown would say--bleahhh.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Breast Men is a very entertaining film, and not just because it
features more naked boobs than Russ Meyer could shake a stick at.
Somewhat loosely based on a true story, this is a film about the creators of the silicone breast implant. Kevin Saunders (David Schwimmer) is the desperately intense and socially clueless young medical student and Bill Larson (Chris Cooper) is the arrogant but somewhat insecure doctor training Kevin to be a plastic surgeon. Kevin comes up with the idea and Larson initially resists it but comes around in frustration at other physicians considering plastic surgeons to be nothing more than "beauticians". They encounter nothing but resistance, both from the medical profession and from women. The only real support they receive is from Dow Corning chemical company, who is more than pleased to find a new use for the silicone on which they own a patent. With no other options, Larson decides to use his own money to open a clinic to provide implants to women but it takes Kevin breaking another medical taboo and advertising to start them on their way to success. And what success they have. They can barely keep up with the demand. But then Kevin and Larson have a falling out, sending Kevin down a dark road of strippers and drugs and ever larger implants for ever more neurotic and unhappy women. Then the great silicone implant medical scare almost destroys both men and their practices, but it's ultimately Kevin who finds the silver lining in that dark cloud.
This movie works on several different levels. It's both a fun little history of the breast implant era, an examination of partnership, a look at women's complicated relationships with their bodies and it tells the story of Kevin's growth from dysfunctional and somewhat emotionally stunted young man to a grown up but not particularly nice guy.
David Schwimmer really gives a fine performance, even while burdened with a retrospective of bad haircuts of the later 20th century. Yes, for a while it does seem like he's just playing Ross from Friends. That's probably an albatross he'll have to carry on every acting job he ever has for the rest of his life. But it doesn't take him long to shed that persona and show us that Kevin Saunders is quite a different person. He's one of those guys who's always wanting, but never quite sure what it is he wants or how he can get. That need drives him to do exceptional things that other people wouldn't do. Without the more controlled and self-aware Larson as his partner, however, Kevin would have never gotten anywhere. Like a car without a driver, Kevin would have just sat in the garage getting rusty. Larson is like the driver. Without a car, he's stuck on the side of the road going nowhere. Kevin's ceaseless wanting eventually leads him to want to be both car and driver, but he can't handle it. Without Larson's stability, Kevin degenerates as a person and as a doctor. Even at his peak success when he's fabulously wealthy, Kevin is crude and needy and unhappy.
Larson is the smaller role in the story, but it's not uninteresting. He's the man who makes the Faustian bargain. He always believed plastic surgery was important but needs other people to validate his status. So he latches on to the breast implant as his version of an organ transplant or miracle vaccine. But as the use of breast implants for simple enlargement, as opposed to cosmetic or reconstructive uses, comes to dominate his profession and his practice, Larson grows more and more bitter and insecure. It's as though he realizes that sticking big boobs on otherwise perfectly normal women really is more like being a beautician than a doctor.
Emily Proctor also does a fine job as a young nurse who somewhat reflects cultural attitudes toward silicone implants. At first she's offended at the suggestion she get them. Then she wants implants to feel better about herself. Then she wants them removed as a way of taking control of her aging body. And yes, we do get to see her unaltered knockers. They're very nice and the fact that a beautiful woman with such a fine, normal bosom feels the need for surgical enhancement is one of the ways this film tries to grapple with the ethical questions of breast enlargement.
While the movie does wallow in some of the sleazier and more libidinous aspects of breast implant, it takes a generally even handed view of the issue. Beyond their use for women who've suffered some sort of damage or trauma to their breasts, this story suggests that women simply wanting bigger breasts so they feel better about themselves isn't such a bad thing. But it also acknowledges that once you open up that door, it becomes almost impossible to close it again. To put it another way, Breast Men accepts that it's probably okay for a woman to want to go from an A cup to a C cup. But it also implies that if you accept that, there's no way to really object to unhealthy extremes like multiple surgeries and going from A to C to FFF.
If you'd like to watch a movie that addresses the cultural questions and arguments over the silicone breast implant, while making you laugh more than a few times, you'll enjoy Breast Men. If you'd just like to ogle an enormous number of bare boobs, this movie is good for that as well.
David Schwimmer puts aside his likability for this movie about breast implant pioneers. He does a great job as a money-hungry, publicity seeking plastic surgeon with no ethics, no morals, and ultimately, no soul. Chris Cooper, as the member of the partnership team with some little conscience, is equally despicable and equally funny. The 70s references are painfully accurate and anyone who lived then will wince in recognition. A good, if not great, dark comedy, worth seeing just to see David Schwimmer playing a self-centered jerk. By the time his final scene rolls around, you'll cheer for his exit. Overall, not bad ; some sharp commentary, and funny more often than not.
When the lawyers start coming out of the woodwork towards the end of "Breast Men", most of the entertainment value has already drained away. What starts out as an insightful look into the female psyche, winds up splattered all over the courtroom floor. Along the way, nice performances by David Schwimmer and Chris Cooper get lost in the dramatically glorified corruption which results from their success. This uneasy mix of professional plastic surgery and promotional advertising eventually ends in a fun house of mirrors. After the intriguing beginning, things steadily slide downhill, and the characters become less and less likable, as does the entire movie. - MERK
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