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A fat man fights against himself to attain his right to be horny and happy
I finally saw this film a couple of days ago, having put it off due to middling reviews and a general lack of buzz. I was shocked to discover that not only did it work, it worked better than any Norwegian film I can remember seeing in the last few years. Granted, Norwegian film is in dire straits at the moment, rehashing dull formulas, making films out of every best-selling book regardless of how well it suits cinema or even works as a book. And yet the industry is in love with itself, regarding these times as some sort of golden age for our business. So let me just say that most movies chosen to prove that claim are nothing but mild versions of Fatso, and that if the business wants a flagship, here it is.
Like most Norwegian movies, the story concerns a sexually arrested man in an Oslo apartment whose main goal in life is to get laid. But unlike the cutesy characters usually presented, this guy is a monster. Only not. We get such uncensored glimpses of his sexual imagination that even as one laughs, one might also feel uncomfortable by the honesty with which his mind is presented. Especially since we all know that deep down we're not as far away from his thought processes as we imagine. The story is basically a repeat of the cinematic wave that made 1999 such a banner year for American cinema, exploring the male psyche and his place in modern society. Sure, not many women would want to sleep with, or get to know, this obese, inward-looking, one-track-mind person, but the filmmakers are fully committed to support his right to be fat, horny and in lust for companionship.
Everything he sees reminds him of sex, sometimes in very concrete ways, sometimes in more abstract ways and some times his mind wanders into combinations of childish superhero worship and universal needs. He is a lonely man who sits in his apartment eating, masturbating and subconsciously hating himself, until his father rents out a room in his large apartment to a sexy Swedish girl with issues of her own. Some see her character as underdeveloped, but we only see her from Rino's point of view, and there are enough moments of desperation in her story to suggest that the angst of the movie is universal, regardless of apparent status, looks and crowd. She doesn't need to be an angel or insanely smart because all Rino needs is someone, anyone, to see him, even if it is with disgust in their eyes.
The story takes us through Rino's journey out of his misery, but it only takes us so far, the filmmakers resisting the temptation to give us the American miracle-cure. The alterations he makes to his universe are things most of us could learn from, even if we're not in as deep a ditch as him. He goes from being an anti-hero to a hero in the traditional sense, trying anything to achieve his goals, while also displaying moral ambiguities that makes him tragically human. His relationship with his best friend is both hilarious and sad, the metaphors are direct and truthful, the way he sees the world has a twisted universality to it. Somehow a PERSON has found his way into a stylized comedy.
At it's core, this is not a movie about getting laid, losing weight, getting friends, status, cooler clothes or creative success, which are all goals the movie keeps open throughout. It's about seeing yourself in others. As he sees the tragedy beneath beautiful surfaces and beauty and humanity beneath ugly exteriors he keeps developing a sense of himself. And through discovering the human being in Rino, viewers who are honest with themselves may see their own lives in a slightly different light and walk out of the theaters as more of a person.
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