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Hunger Point August 17, 2009

Posted by H$ in 13-16, H$, hunger point.
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So, I will be reviewing this Thursday’s Project Runway with help from 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.

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