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As much an example of self-preservation as a film, “Lbs.” features one of the most dramatic physical transformations captured on celluloid.
Lead actor Carmine Famiglietti devised the story and co-wrote the screenplay in an effort to, as described in the press notes, save his life. In the course of the extended 27-month shoot, he lost more than 100 pounds, giving a real verisimilitude to this moving tale of a young man helplessly addicted to food.
Central character Neil (Famiglietti) is a 27-year-old Brooklyn school bus driver weighing in at about 300 pounds. Two days before his sister’s wedding, he suffers a heart attack at the wheel, nearly killing himself and his young charges. When the wedding eventually is held later under disastrous circumstances, his sister (Sharon Angela) and new brother-in-law (Lou Martini Jr.) bitterly and very publicly blame him. The humiliation prompts him to make a last-ditch effort to change his life.
Driving far into upstate New York, he buys a rundown trailer in the middle of the woods, where he is joined by his cocaine-addicted friend, Sacco (Michael Aronov). There, the two men plan to hole up until they have kicked their addictions.
In the process, the virginal Neil has an affair with a married waitress (Miriam Shor) that simultaneously awakens long-dormant emotions and strengthens his resolve to change.
Returning home a year later slimmed down and nearly unrecognizable, Neil discovers through a series of emotional confrontations with friends and family that his physical transformation hasn’t miraculously solved all of his problems.
Considering that food addiction is a problem facing millions of Americans, it’s surprising that this is one of the rare films addressing the subject. Although it has its cliched elements — Neil’s Italian-American family is strictly of the stereotypical variety, for instance — “Lbs.” addresses its all-too-relevant topic with subtlety, sensitivity and welcome doses of humor.
Much of the credit for its effectiveness goes to Famiglietti, deeply moving in his portrayal of his goodhearted character’s compulsiveness and the emotional pain it causes him. The actor’s compelling self-exposure, physically and emotionally, draws us into such a degree that we genuinely come to care about his well-being.
Opens: Friday, March 26 (Truly Indie)
Production: Brooklyn-Queen Experiment
Cast: Carmine Famiglietti, Michael Aranov, Miriam Shor, Sharon Angela, Lou Martini Jr., Susan Varon, Fil Formicola
Director: Matthew Bonifacio
Screenwriters-producers: Matthew Bonifacio, Carmine Famiglietti
Executive producer: Marc Evan Victor
Director of photography: William M. Miller
Editor: Jim Rubino
Music: Carlo Giacco
Production designer: Sophia Antonini
No rating, 99 minutes
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