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lbs - FILM Review: Starring Carmine famiglietti

Lars HindsleyBy Lars Hindsley Sat 2 Mar 2013 10:02 PM EST | 3153 Views
Three Dangers

(DL) – We go to the movies to be entertained, but isn't great to be inspired? We often connect with a film because we have traveled the same road as the character the story. Carmine Famiglietti's Lbs, is a movie with both qualities. You may think that I’m talking about a blockbuster hit, a must see film that already has a media blitz. Lbs never had the backing of a major film label; it’s just a small indie film that almost got lost in history; good for you it has not.

In fact it almost never saw the light of day. Few know Lbs first made a splash in the Sundance Film Festival in 2004 only to be locked up in a legal battle stalling it's release until 2010. Filming took over two years because it was financed by friends and family members. So what is Lbs? Safe to say it is now a true inspirational movie where CGI and special effects don't give you an unrealistic pay off in how the character sheds almost 200 pounds during filming! Don't call this a spoiler. You can't spoil this movie sharing this important element  – the story is fictional.
Paul in isolation and Lbs Movie Poster
Paul (Carmine Famiglietti) is an overweight New Yorker living with his parents in Brooklyn. Not exactly the protagonist type in a story you think you can get behind, but you do get behind Paul.

When Paul is suddenly struck by a heart attack, a chain of events bring him to the reality that his health and eating disorder impact everyone that love him. Now you would think a heart attack alone is reason to change, but that’s the beauty of Lbs.  It’s more real than one warning sign and suddenly our man gets religion.  It takes more than a heart attack for Paul to see what he is doing to himself and others. The guilt and shame of his inability to be self-disciplined in his eating does occur immediately. Paul's eating disorder soon leads to more disaster in his life. Only then does he make a decision many of us wish we had the guts to make. Paul makes a lifestyle choice. He knows that the temptations of his city life are more than he can handle. Paul feels the answer is total isolation for however long it takes to lose weight.

Paul’s journey is the reward of the film. You may feel you already know the ending but his journey is not what you would expect. A story such as Lbs required a realistically honest ending carrying the message “The journey never ends”. In Lbs – for the character Paul, the end is the beginning of a new journey.  You feel good for him as you walk away from it.

Lbs is a story that underscores the dilemma most people with an eating disorder face. For every contestant on a show like Biggest Loser where a support system and motivation is in play at all times, there are 10,000 more men and women that don’t get a trainer. Those 10,000 people are left to try and lose weight without any support system what-so-ever.

With more than half  (some say two thirds) the American public being overweight, Lbs takes on the subject of weight loss from perhaps the most human perspective of any film made on the subject of losing weight.  More important is that Lbs doesn’t interpret the lives of fat people; it gives it to you in the most real terms you will find. Paul’s character expresses the disorder of eating more accurately than any character has yet to do in film. This film helps everyone battling a demon like weight (eating disorders) and humanizes it so that each of us can truly empathize with the emotions tied to it. To think this is only a film about weight loss would be to miss an important component in its message. We all have demons, we all have challenges. Each of us has room to appreciate Paul’s battle and latch on to him in hope as the story progresses. 

But Lbs isn’t just a film about losing weight. Its greatest achievement isn’t even watching the lead character shed almost half his body weight during the production of the movie. Its real achievement is in communicating the real pain, the real feelings and inner workings of an overweight person.

During the story Paul is never depicted as a Rocky type with fierce indomitable determination.  Instead you see him fail repeatedly as we all do in real life. Yet for as many times as you may fail, we can all learn a lesson in Paul’s story which is “if you never quit you get there” or as he expresses it, “Monday came.”     

To say this is all we experience through Paul’s eyes is mistake.  A few awkward edits in the film do little harm in communicating Paul’s point of view.  He’s a man with the most simplest of desires, to be accepted – not as a fat man but as a member of society. He would just love to be able to sit on the beach with his shirt off and not feel like everyone is looking at him in a negative way. And again, there is no preaching here.  It’s not about thin people verses fat people and how we need to accept each other.  Still, as Paul heads down a road he never wants to go back on he learns how to live in his new skin, literally. 
Carmine on bike as Paul in Lbs
From this perspective you as a filmgoer learn again the age old adage, “Beauty is only skin deep”.  The film’s raw and flawed film-making keep you grounded throughout the story.  Despite the fact most us may already know that Carmine Famiglietti (Paul) lost over 100 lbs in production,  Lbs is not a documentary nor does it feel like one, but in knowing the lead actor actually went through two years of his life to reach the same goal as the character in the story, you can’t help but want to get up in the isle or off the couch and cheer for this guy.

Lbs, doesn’t preach, it doesn’t sell. It doesn’t pretend to have the answer to weight loss other than to prove ultimately each of us have to show self discipline in order to get from point A to point B.   
This film was director Matt Bonifacio’s first feature film. Almost every decision he made in production was a home run, from the soundtrack which was key in my opinion to cinematography being spot on. If there is anything to criticize it’s from the technical point of view in editing. But overlooking these flaws is easy.  The story establishes characters we can relate to, understand, appreciate and pull for early on. Bonificio established just the right balance in every character, from Paul’s parents that ‘mean well’ but in reality are enablers to Paul’s bad habits, to the women Paul encounters through-out the story.

For me few films wrap their endings up in a perfect bow. We send Paul off into his future with a clear understanding that his journey has just begun, but it’s a better journey now because he made the right decisions in his life. But you’ll want to experience his journey first hand. You must see Lbs.   

Listen to the original 2010 Audio Interview on DangerMan's YouTube Channel HERE.
View Part 1 of the 2013 Follow-Up Interview on DangerMan's YouTube Channel HERE
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