Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Phat Girlz

Phat Girlz, talkin' 'bout the Phat Girlz, uh huh....beep beep...

Phat Girlz is a one-note movie, a low budget attempt at telling the story from the other side. The side no one wants to be on, the side most kids and adults alike see as the losing side.

Nnegest Likke is the writer and first-time director of Phat Girlz, and she has a lot to say about this subject, how fat people, especially women, are looked down upon and stepped on. Mo'Nique, the rap artist, saw Likke's screenplay, got the funding together, and, just like Mickey and Judy, got together and got this movie made.

The plot leads us through a couple of days in Jazmin's life. It's obvious from the beginning that her life isn't clicking on any cylinders. The diet she's on is causing her to gain weight, strangely enough but familiar to many of us. The simpleton boss she works for doesn't understand her. She has a personality bigger than this movie, but no man wants a piece of that. All of a sudden, a contest she's won lands her in a resort with her two friends in tow. Her life is suddenly turned around when she meets a Nigerian man who appreciates her weight as extra Jazmin, an event that gives her more confidence to strut her stuff as a fashion designer.

We've been in some of this territory before. The idea that you have to go to another country to find a man who's foreign enough to appreciate you is an odd concept that's been used too frequently. That part of Phat Girlz was tiring. And the technical difficulties of the movie, meaning a cameraman who doesn't have a steady hand, were distracting.

But there are also some beautiful moments in the movie. The scene where Jazmin slugs it out verbally with a Fatass Burger (love that name!) clerk reminds me of a similar scene in Cyrano de Bergerac. "You can't do any better than that? Is that your best insult?" and then she proceeds to one-up him on every level.

This movie has wide release but isn't doing well in the theatres. (Still, it will easily make back its $2 million budget.) IMDB readers gave it an average rating of 1.6 out of a possible 10. Why? Because this is a subject people are uncomfortable with, more uncomfortable than watching any Brokeback Mountain. Fat is not only not in, fat is not acceptable in our society. It's not to be pitied, it's to be hated. And as much of an argument as this movie valiantly tries to make, that a lot of weight doesn't mean weakness, nobody's buying it.

This is a one-note movie, but that one note is that it's okay to be overweight or to look different, and that young girls and women who don't look like models still have a right to lead their lives in the pursuit of their own happiness. And that's a valuable lesson. Let's hope Ms. Likke has many more chances in the industry. Thumb's up.


At 6:19 AM, Blogger Chemi Che-Mponda said...

Hey, great review!

I saw it, I loved the film. This film was long overdue in the making. How many times have we seen films where the person slims down and is finally accepted in society. Well in Phat Girlz the characters accept who they are and the world loves them. The sad thing was it took Nigerian visitors to help them realize this.

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Laura said...

This is a wonderful commentary on a great movie. There are, of course, part of the movie that are too cliche and have been done before. But I like the fact that these women are still portrayed as sexy and desirable. There is nothing wrong with them.


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