Sunday, July 16, 2017

To The Bone - Possible Triggering Content

To The Bone 
Rated: Fucking Disaster

This movie reminds me of a bad after school special in its effort to try to be edgy and informative while accomplishing the exact opposite.

Supposedly there was a lot of controversy around the Netflix movie, "To The Bone" which, I'm sure, is exactly what the producers wanted. The other 35 movies about young white anorexic females in wealthy famlies may or may not have successfully given people an idea of what eating disorders are all about, but, despite the story being familiar, this film could have brought something new to the table. Unfortunately, "To The Bone" failed miserably on so many levels, it's hard to know where to start, except to say that, yes, it's triggering as fuck and doesn't deliver a solid message, and most people in the throes of any eating disorder should avoid it at all costs. Seriously, if you are even remotely worried you might be triggered, do not watch this movie. 

Why anyone who struggled with an eating disorder would not only support this project but lose weight for the main role as Lily Collins claims she did -- even though makeup, prosthetics and camera angles were already being used to make her appear unnaturally thin -- is beyond me, but it shows how very sick those in the industry believe our society to be in its desire to gawk at the sick and the dying. In other words, it's more important to the makers of "To The Bone" to have the anorexic look down than it is to have an important message or any message at all, really. Strangely, those involved spent all this time trying to convince us that the main character looks like she just walked out of a concentration camp -- and she does most of the time -- yet they also want us to also believe that she can't close her fingers around her upper arm. They also don't go into these types of body-checking behaviors or why those struggling tend to engage in them. Pick a lane if you're going to pretend you're all edgy and shit, but, more importantly, don't put something into a film if it's there just for the sake of being there. 

I suffered through the film twice in an effort to find any redeeming qualities, but both times I was left feeling downright disgusted throughout the viewings and empty and hollow at the end. So many parts are cringe worthy. The only halfway adequate scenes in the entire movie are when the main character's younger sister breaks down and explains how difficult it is to be a family member of and love someone who is ill and those in which various other characters hint at deeper issues. Otherwise, this is a lot like watching a visibly drunk person try to explain to a group of other drinkers why getting drunk on a daily basis is a bad idea and then go on to give tips about how to get away with it. Here, hold my beer... In the end, I still don't know what the point of this movie was, except to possibly accentuate all the false stereotypes around eating disorders.

One of the many unbelievable things to me is that a side character in the movie who is triggered by the content the main character posts on social media ends up killing herself, and yet those who read the script still thought it was a good idea to move forward with this film. No irony there, nope. Anyone who has had an eating disorder, especially anorexia, should know that the nature of the illness is one of competition and comparison. It's a symptom of sorts. Whether it's due to low self-esteem or something else, those in the throes of the illness are often heavily influenced by others. To go ahead with this project knowing this is shocking, but it's not unlike the fucked up beauty industry in its deceitful ways of making money by exploiting others. Anything for a buck, eh? So you know, Netflix is planning to pay out about six billion dollars for original content this year. 

"To The Bone" does everything concerned people feared it would. It's hugely triggering, it glorifies eating disorders, and it completely misses the mark when it comes to giving an accurate portrayal of what it's like to have an eating disorder. The worst part is that it doesn't give anyone any answers. This is a lot like those Instagram accounts that justify self-destructive behaviors and promote a certain look because "fuck you, I'm cool and can do what I want." The film's focus is on anorexia or looking anorexic, but producers threw a few other token characters with various eating disorders into the story line without going very deeply into anything other than the way these people look. I noticed, too, that nearly all the skinny girls were white. The only role of a patient not underweight was played by an African-American lady. Make of that what you will. 

In one article I read recently, the director of the movie claimed that a nutritionist made sure Lily Collins, who plays the lead role as an angsty anorexic artist, gained the weight back she lost for the role, thereby proving nothing and ignoring the fact that eating disorders are not entirely about weight. In fact, many people with potentially deadly eating disorders don't look a certain way. We come in all shapes, sizes and ethnicities. The creators sure want you to believe that those who struggle are either heavy or thin, though, and saying this movie is a great way to provide viewers with an opportunity to discuss eating disorders is like claiming images of people who have overdosed is a great way to bring up discussions about drug use. It's simply not effective, and this is nothing more than a self-indulgent, self-serving project that's more damaging and inaccurate than helpful in any way.

With an abnormal focus on appearance and behaviors and a lack of any real substance, this film fails completely in conveying what it's like to suffer from an eating disorder. You don't see the anguish, the guilt, the shame, the severe depression, the intense anger, the fear, the unease, the worry, the constant and never-ending internal conflict, the tears, the despair, the anxiety, and the sheer hell of living in a state of self-imposed torture, no matter what the diagnosis. You don't see the self-hatred or the loss of friendships, relationships, the loss of self, and the physical pain of starvation is lacking in this flick as well. A few bruises on the lead character's back doesn't show the true physical agony of starvation. If anything, the movie makes light of an often deadly disorder, cracking lame jokes about calorie counting and subtly mocking those who chew and spit (is that scene supposed to be funny? Christ.) or those who purge and hide it in bags. 

It seems the creators wanted to shock and awe their audience, but, instead, all they accomplished was producing a lot of bullshit that has already been done before. If you want a better but equally triggering account of an anorexic, take a look at "The Brief Life of Catherine." As difficult as that one is to watch, at least it gives viewers a better idea of the illness and how trapped those who suffer and those who are forced to witness loved ones suffering can feel. 

"To The Bone" provides almost zero when it comes to hope and recovery. There are hints about what it takes to get well, but nothing is developed. There was a great opportunity for the main character to find and more fully explore her identity, and, instead, her therapist, played in his awful dreary way by Keanu Reeves, tells her to change her name and provides her with a new one. How is this allowing her to find her individuality and sense of self? There's so little offered in terms of therapy or help, and viewers are left wondering how anyone could possibly improve in a rehab facility where no rules are enforced, even those supposedly put in place by the administration, and nobody is supervised for more than a few minutes. There's no talk of how restoring the body can help with an improved mental outlook or how difficult the first stages of recovery can be, and a therapist suggesting a starving girl "needs" to hit rock bottom is about as absurd as it gets given the chances of her dying before she gets there and back, assuming recovery is actually the goal. There were plenty of other missed opportunities to bring up recovery strategies, but that's because most of the movie focused on the illness itself. Anorexia took center stage here, not any of the actors. That was the only realistic aspect of the entire movie, that eating disorders generally take over, and I'm sure that wasn't planned by the creators of this movie.

Overall, this movie was a waste of time. Had the focus been more on the male character, a recovering anorexic dancer with a knee injury, it might have had more of a chance to bring something new to audiences. Sadly, the result is that this side story got buried under the unrealistic scenario of a love interest between him and the main character. We all know how ready for relationships those on the verge of death are, especially after just meeting someone new, right? More evidence that Hollywood is incapable of producing any meaningful content around mental illness. Still, bringing his story more fully into the script could have been one way to improve this film, but that's sort of like giving a fetid piece of shit a squirt of perfume. Ultimately, even this side story failed to develop beyond the attempted message that men get eating disorders too.

And one last thing: Rexie? Dafuq? Do people actually call those with anorexia rexies? Someone needs to burn this film before more people view it.