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Interesting to a point but loses the bigger subject by focusing so tightly on the specifics of the treatment centre
This documentary follows a group of girls in a private hospital in Florida for treatment for anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders. The timing is only ever going to more relevant with coming time I think because weight is an increasing issue. I know the media does exaggerate for the sake of stories but we do either seem to be a society of obesity or undereating. Watching America's Next Top Model and shows of the ilk you regularly hear "too big" or worse from the judges in relation to girls who are very trim by modern standards. Meanwhile "size zero" is the thing of nightmares for those concerned about the women who feel forced to be thinner and thinner. All this against the background of the very public death of model Reston (40kg at age 21) from an infection after her system was weakened by the effects of anorexia.
So with all this in mind I was quite looking forward to this film because I hoped that it would be worthy of the subject which is important and depressing. The film goes behind the scenes at a treatment centre in South Florida and follows the patients and doctors through counselling sessions, weighing, community sessions and just hanging out. The degree of access is impressive and the subjects don't seem to be affected at all by having a camera around them all the time. It is a shame then that the film doesn't deliver a point or a well constructed case but it doesn't really manage to do this. The "fly on the wall" approach does provide value as the lives of the girls do make for an engaging documentary but I couldn't help but feel that the film should be using the girls to access a bigger point rather than being about the dramas within the treatment centre alone.
This is best seen in the final third, which seems to be mostly about Polly and her friends being confronted by the staff over their behaviour and attitudes; this made it more of a soap opera than anything else and, although interesting, it was not what I had hoped the film would be. Greenfield's direction is very good, providing lots of intimate shots without ever getting in the way of the people or the treatment. She does turn out a film that is engaging and touching at turns but I didn't think that it did much to my understanding of the conditions. For viewers who dismiss it as "all in the head" and a western disease for fashion obsessed girls, there isn't much here to educate otherwise.
Overall then this is a weakness to the film because it doesn't deal with the subject but rather the specific people in the centre. This means it is not as good or as important as it should have been an, although it is of some interest, it is certainly not the film that I had hoped it would be.
16 of 23 people found this review helpful.
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