Monday, August 17, 2009

Hunger Point

So, I will be reviewing this Thursday's Project Runway with help from Terri and a former show contestant. Huzzah! If I had known such a windfall was coming, I would not have bothered firing up MyLifetime over the weekend. Oh well. I watched a film named Hunger Point, which I chose on the criteria that it would be an awesome name for a movie about a killer shark. To my disappointment, it was about anorexia.

Hunger Point centers around the Hunter family, who are as WASPy and dysfunctional as any other TV family but unfortunately far less entertaining. If you've seen a Lifetime movie before, you've already met these folks, but let's break it down anyway. Marsha Hunter is the cruel matriarch of the family, a career-driven former chubster who is obsessed with keeping her daughters skinny at any cost. As any fat person can tell you, there is nobody more cruel to the plus-sized then those who who have left their ranks. She makes fun of the other kids at weight loss camp, slaps her daughter's hands away from pieces of food, and generally vamps about like a mix between Maude Lebowski and Cruella DeVille. I'd say she acted so hard that she ate the scenery, but it is hard to imagine her character eating anything without angrily spitting it into her napkin.

Her daughters are portrayed with equal fervor and equally terrible performances. When we meet Shelly, she is in the throes of an eating disorder. Those familiar with anorexia or bulimia will recognize Shelly as the stereotypical Patient A: a young woman under pressure with an intensely distorted body image and a need for control. Unfortunately for Shelly (and us), the film doesn't give her a character besides A Girl That Has Been Interrupted. Any time that could be spent establishing a character for her is generally spent dwelling on Franny, whose chubby childhood has given her a persecution complex and a bad case of the passive-aggression. All of her interactions with others are as follows:

Franny: Hey Mom, you emotionally crippled me by taking my ice cream away when I was little, you dumb skank.
Marsha: Seriously?
Franny: GOD MOM I WAS JUST KIDDING I DIDN'T MEAN ANYTHING BY IT WHY DO YOU HATE MEEEE *pause for 10 minute monologue about the evils of mocking kids in husky pants*

Franny sucks, but for reasons I cannot begin to fathom, she is the heroine of the film. Why, movie? Couldn't we have focused on the mom, or god forbid, the person with the eating disorder that the movie is supposed to be about? Shit, I would have even accepted the emotionally distant patriarch as a protagonist. At least he wears a cowboy hat sometimes.

Many TV movies about anorexia have the following plotline:
  1. Special girl lives too-good-to-be-true life. The non-specials are admiring, but suspicious of her constant need to hide things and vomit.
  2. Special girl is discovered to be anorexic. Blame is ascribed to beauty magazines, inadequate parenting, and whatever else the writers are pissed at this week. We are yet to see a movie that blames anorexia on terrorism, but I am confident someone will have the vision to make this happen eventually.
  3. Treatment begins. This can range from meeting with a counselor to full-on hospitalization depending on the amount of time left in the film.
  4. The family deals. The movie gives us an infodump on How To Deal With Eating Disorders, and all of the mothers of teenage daughters watching it have quiet panic attacks.
  5. Treatment is working. The anorexic girl is suddenly full of life. Sometimes she eats salad.
  6. BONUS ROUND! If the credits didn't roll after step 5, our anorexic is going to relapse. She will either realize what they are doing wrong and have a tearful confession that leads to further treatment, or die of a heart attack. Either way, a lesson is learned.
Hunger Point follows Shelly through the above plot arc, but it makes the unforgivably stupid decision to make us observe it from Franny's point of view. Franny is incapable of thinking of anyone other then herself for more then 5 minutes, so needless to say, this is not an effective narrative device. When her sister is hospitalized, she spends every visit flirting with cute doctors and whining when people on the psych ward won't dance with her to a song on the radio. When her sister finally is well enough to leave the psych ward, she is pissed that nobody is paying enough attention to her and yells at her Mom for making a welcome home cake because "skinny won't eat it". When her sister finally dies of a suicide-attempt-induced heart attack, the movie should be over. Instead we are forced to sit through 40 more interminable Frannytastic minutes of calling her mother a whore, complaining that she had to go to fat camp, and eventually settling down with a nice boy she meets at a nursing home (no, really). Both Franny and her mother are so spiteful and cruel that there's no emotional redemption available. You just want them to stop interacting so they can't call each other fat bitches anymore.

Awesomeness: 1

This movie was as bleak and dull as a trailer park. Actually, trailers in those parks usually have things like pinwheels and windchimes to decorate their yards, so a trailer park would actually be marginally more fun then this film. It would also contain just as much depressing crazy, but the ubiquitous coolers full of Natty Light would help one cope.

Star Power: 7

This is where the film really disappoints you: there are some decent actresses in this piece of shit. Marsha is played by Barbara Hershey, who was nominated for an Oscar in 1997 (for fucks sake). Shelly is Susan May Pratt, who has been in 10 billion TV movies and played second banana in some well-known teeniebopper flicks like 10 Things I Hate About You. But brace yourself- Franny is played by Christina Hendricks, AKA Joan Holloway in Mad Men! It's a bit of fun irony that she went from being an insecure whiny idiot that hates her body in a TV movie to a sympathetic, interesting character that flaunts her curves in Mad Men.

Lifetimeliness: 4

All 4 points are because the film deals with anorexia. Every single female character in this movie is awful, and there is no fun Lifetime-flavored campiness to temper the edge. Jesus, couldn't we at least have had a lesbian social worker or a frank discussion about panty lines to ease the tension?

12. In short, this movie was dull and unrelenting and impossible to properly mock. Every time I try to think about it I just hear Franny's whiny voice buzzing in my ears like a dentist drill. My head hurts. It's not funny. Fuck this movie.

Come back on Friday, when we'll be discussing something much more entertaining with someone much more qualified to discuss it.


Rusty said...

I have never seen an episode of Mad Men.

But I totally remember this music video!

HarmonyC said...

Why am I not surprised that you don't know the current activities of the actress, but you remember her connection to a crappy 90's single? Sometimes I think you were in one of those illegal psychological experiments where you would be raised in a cage and your only form of interaction with the outside world would be calling into Total Request Live.

That is a funny link, though.

DU said...

Google has no images of a "Christine Hendrickson". They do however have a hit for "Christina Hendricks".

I've never watched Mad Men OR that video.

But the real reason I'm commenting is to ask: suicide-induced heart attack? Do I even want to know more than that?

(Also, this movie is *also* on YouTube. I think these reviews could be spiced up by linking to snippets of the movie in question. There is a way to link to a snippet, but I've never figured out how it works.)

HarmonyC said...

Dang typos. Fixed. I don't know who Christine Hendrickson is, but I hope she enjoyed the publicity.

Maybe I'll go through YouTube and see if i can find some fun clips. But I swear that there is nothing fun in this movie. I can't think of a single scene I could excerpt for laughs. Maybe one of Franny's especially awful tirades.

Sadako said...

Wow, that sounds...suckified. That is weird that it was from the POV of the obnoxious sounding sister, not the actual anorexic one.

EdTheRed said...

Christina Hendricks was also in Firefly, where she had a sham marriage with the actor who played a guy who had a sham marriage with Kate in a flashback during Season 3 of, you know, bonus points for that.

seasonsoflove05 said...

the book the movie is based on is amazing. But yes the movie sucked ass.

viagra online said...

Hunger Point is a sad movie, when you can see the worst consequences that a person with this eating disorder can experiment.I really stayed impressed.

Sally Scott said...

You forgot to mention the world's best pickup line found in this movie:

"You have the most intriguing mouth."

Then the dude randomly totally forgets the chick he used the line on. FAIL.

The entire movie is on YouTube in 10 minute parts so you can watch it for free. I'm only halfway through, but definitely worth watching if you like to torture yourself with Lifetime movies.

Sherilyn said...

In all honesty, I have watched this lifetime movie and found it to be quite compelling. It is not as terrible as what this writer here implies it to be.

I just want to say a few things:

The reason why the movie (or rather, novel written y Jillian Medoff) focused more on Franny (the depressed and insecure older sister) as opposed to Shelly (the anorexia victim) was because the producers (and author, originally) wanted to portray the disease from the family's point of view. Movies about eating disorders often portray the anorexic/bulimic character as the protagonist, and most of the time the audience do not truly understand the pain that is inflicted on the family members. Hence, Medoff's novel takes a different approach to exploring the effects of this disorder.

The movie mostly shows how Franny and her parents cope after Shelly's unfortunate death due to complications from anorexia. It also reveals how the childhood deprivation from food and the strict need to maintain one's figure at such a young age has affected Franny more than she knew. The parents also have their fair share of screen time, with the father grieving the loss of his younger daughter and dealing with the confusion and how little he understands about the disease and why Shelly would choose to harm herself this way. The mother, partly responsible for encouraging Shelly's obsession with dieting, is largely in denial that her actions have caused her daughter's death.

Granted, this movie may not have Oscar-deserving acting (not when , for starters, it is a television movie) but I think the psychological depth of the disease is well explored among the victim and her family members. It is a good movie and I am standing by my opinion.

beccafierce said...

Obviously you have never had an eating disorder. Make fun all you want, but this film hits very close to home with me. My mother was formerly obese and is now obsessed with food and weight. My relationship with my mother is very similar to the relationship Frannie has with her mother. I ended up with a severe eating disorder that nealrly killed me and as of last week, I have now lost FIVE friends to anorexia and/or bulimia. Just because you don't identify with the subject matter doesn't mean the story inaccurate or pathetic. This story is sadly close to home for many of it's viewers/readers. Yes, readers. This movie is based on a book. Frannie is meant to be the lead as we are seeing/reading a story from HER point of view.

I'd also like to point out that seeing Christina Hendricks play such opposite characters (very well in my opinion) is called ACTING! An actor is SUPPOSED to be versatile! I do a LOT of theatre. I have played everything from "Penny" in "Hairspray" to playing a man in "Crazy for You". My best friend did two back to back shows. One was a drama that required her to be in tears for basically the entire show and the other was a comedy that required a lot of physical comedy. She was amazing in both.

What really annoys me is when people have such strong opinions on subjects they obviously know nothing or very little about. You obviously do not have an understanding of eating disorders or acting.

BTW...If the movie was so bad and so painful for you to watch, why did you watch the entire movie? It couldn't have been that bad if it had you glued to the TV for two hours!

One more thing...Eating Disorders are VERY real and most therapists amd treatment centers believe them to and treat them as a family disease. The family is never fully to blame, but they do play a role in the disease and the effect the sufferer has on his/her family is devastating. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. I was in treatment 5 times and I was only underweight 2 of those times. I, for the most part, have recovered. However, I have watched 5 friends lose their life to this disease. Two of them were much like Shelly. They were incredibly intelligent, insecure, desperate for control, etc. The friend I lost last week was about a month away from her college graduation. She was going for her MD. I hope you never fall into the grips of eating disorder and I hope you never have to experience the loss of a loved one to this horrendous disease. I pray that you are able to find some empathy for sufferers and their families. This is not a laughing matter. It's sad that instead of this movie shedding light on a very serious and real issue, you found it laughable. Sad...

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