Published Mar 17, 2011Now that it's no longer "cool" to beat up queers or dole out racial slurs to get that fragile ego pumped with fleeting validation and self-sustained arbitrary superiority, the collective targets fatties and smokers, convincing themselves that it's about health and not just good old fashioned supremacist hate. And because everyone needs a cinematic voice, A Matter of Size gives a bit of gumption and cornball representation to the morbidly obese, finding empowerment in emotional eating and pendulous man-boobs rather than the accepted self-loathing and embarrassment.
This journey of self-acceptance is what propels this Israeli comedy, starting out in a sort of ersatz Jenny Craig with degrading group weigh-ins where single, 30something Herzl (Itzik Cohen) learns that he has again gained, rather than lost, weight. Kicked out of the group by two-dimensional, fat-hating villain Geola (Evelin Hagoel), our zaftig protagonist later loses his chef gig after customers complain that his appearance affects their dining comfort and satisfaction.
If this seems overly coincidental and somewhat contrived that's because it, like everything else in this film, is overly laboured and idealistic, going for uplifting with pat resolutions and simplified character trajectories. Herzl must confront his self-hatred while dating the similarly corpulent Zehava (Irit Kaplan), whose externality and preoccupation with dieting forces introspection, as projected onto an unconvincing, fledgling relationship.
The central premise – wherein Herzl and three excessively chubby friends create their own sumo wrestling team – almost comes off as incidental, existing as a gimmicky narrative device to exploit and make comedic the very bias that this tale of self-actualization criticizes. Scenes of the men in sumo gear slamming into each other, running through the woods and shamefully walking through the streets are played as funny for obvious reasons, preaching confidence through free exposure while quietly snickering about the enormous man waddling in a diaper.
Despite its implicit hypocrisy and strained, tentative, Liberal sensibility there are some minor laughs to be had amidst the sea of familiar narrative devices and unlikely character reactions. It's just unfortunate that it never cuts beneath the figurative surface of literal body image ennui. (VSC)