My husband really doesn’t like watching depressing movies and shows. To him entertainment should be uplifting and happy, as a way of escape. I of course beg to differ. I like serious films, sometimes even artsy ones. I’m no film buff – I watch movies like I read books: to experience a unique story from another person’s POV. (Which doesn’t mean I don’t also like mindless entertainment. I do. But they have their place.) Anyway, now that my husband’s away, what’s a better time to watch all these serious and/or depressing films, right?
So I decided to watch To the Bone today. During dinner, no less. It’s supposed to be about how anorexia “really is”, allegedly, and I’ve hung around tumblr enough to know what “thinspiration” and everything involved means. So I was curious to see how they did this, and see if they glorified it in any way. It’s interesting to see that they casted Lily Collins, who actually had an eating disorder when she was younger. She lost some serious amount of weight for the role, I heard, which is kind of scary in its own way. I recognized some visual techniques with shadows and makeup and (I’m guessing?) prosthetics to make all the actors look much thinner than they are. So it actually looked, on a pure physical sense, very believable.
I think the movie is good. Yeah, what a bland statement, I know, but that kind of sums it up for me. Mostly because I kind of predicted the emotional growth story arc as I watched, so it was a little, well, boring in that sense. I knew Megan was going to lose her baby right after the baby shower. I knew that Luke’s cheerfulness will bite him in the end (although I was hedging on him actually have a heart failure or something, which sometimes happen just as you’re starting to recover because your heart can’t handle all the work running a heavier body). I knew that Eli will hit rock bottom and somehow then dig herself out, so to speak, and it’s a hopeful end. So as far as character growth and plot elements go they all seem a little bit too hopeful and cliché. (I don’t know what I’m expecting, though. I’m not really rooting for anyone to fail and die, and optimism is kind of the end game, so, yeah, that’s not really a complaint) Maybe it’ll work better in a longer series form? I don’t know.
I do think the movie has fantastic dialogue and all the details about people suffering from eating disorders are so on point. The way they automatically know all the calories of anything, the many ways to purge, the way Eli keep on circling her arm with her fingers to see if it had gotten bigger, the scene at the restaurant where she tastes food and then spits it back out, the fact that someone can look overweight but still be anorexic, etc. etc. Phenomenal job on all those. The film does leaves a lot of things unsaid, because people with ED would immediately understand what was going on and its significance. Though it makes me wonder about the film’s intended audience. I understood a lot because of tumblr, but would people who don’t visit tumblr at all and knows nothing about ED? Would they realize that Eli eating that piece of candy bar is a giant leap forward? Like, yes, they’d get that it’s a big deal, but would they feel how huge a step that is? I mean granted she might exercise it away later, but she actually swallowed it, you know?
The film did get really artsy at some points, especially in the end with Eli’s journey into the sand dunes. I get that she looking at a skeletal corpse of herself is the lightning rod that finally gave her the push to get better. And I get why they did it. It just feels a little too neat for me. So is the bonding scene between her and her mother. I think I’m just expecting a messy film because an eating disorder is a messy business, and the way the film is so composed and, packaged?, is a little weird. I suppose it’s made that way so it conveys the point but doesn’t actually trigger anyone, but it does diminish effect a little. (Like if they have more scenes of Eli exercising like crazy on the stairs or something, or actually showing people throwing up, it would be more impactful. But I understand it might give someone a panic attack, too.)
So all in all it’s a good film. It got a lot of the details right, and it is important to see the struggles of actual sufferers and how well-rounded human beings they are instead of just a sickness. But the plot is a little cliché and the up and downs are a little too tame. A lot is at stake (people’s lives, ffs) but it didn’t give me the feel that it is. A little bit more drama would actually work better. At least for an audience like me who does not suffer from eating disorders.