The Body Fights Back Movie Review
My wife is a mental health therapist who specializes in treating people with eating disorders and body image issues, which may not make me entirely overqualified to judge the new documentary The Body Fights Back on its message, but gives me enough ammunition to parrot her talking points.
We watched the movie together, and frankly, if not for my wife’s specialty, The Body Fights Back would have fallen in with the hundreds of other documentaries I don’t get around to viewing in any given month or year. And while my wife was more invested in the subject matter than I, Marian Vosumets’ filmmaking debut is certainly an eyeopener in many ways.
The doc follows five individuals (primarily) including a woman whose anorexia became so bad she nearly died, a fat woman with more charisma than Oprah, a male bodybuilder with an exercise addiction, and a young woman who appears “normal” and thin when wearing the right kind of clothes, but in reality is hiding a body that is quite different from most.
At once a celebration of body types and a refutation of diet culture, The Body Fights Back has a worthy message that opens a window into issues that extend far beyond people with diagnosed eating disorders and other “major” body issues--these issues affect a large percentage of people, primarily but not exclusively women, in Western society. Vosumets obviously has passion for the subject and relishes the opportunity to showcase the amazing women in this film.
A journalist and broadcaster by trade, Vosumets’ film is also a little rough around the edges. It lacks focus in time, both in terms of message and the number of characters she introduces. While the movie centers on a few key individuals, there are a lot of people that pop up throughout--and it’s not always clear who the hell they are. For instance, there’s a very tall guy named Johannes Schrey, who is shown quite frequently throughout the first half of the doc, but neither my wife or I were apparently paying attention when he first was introduced and we struggled to figure out why he was even in the movie. Further, the movie’s dual focus on diet culture and body acceptance, though the topics are intertwined, doesn’t completely gel, and it seems Vosumet bites off more than she can chew. No pun intended.
The Body Fights Back works better as an embrace of varying body types than as a takedown of diet culture; a more ruthless film would spend a lot more time on the amount of money at play, where the money goes, and how corporations continue to adjust their marketing strategies to trick people (women, and increasingly men) into buying into the fallacies of diets. Vosumets touches on this, but only barely.
My wife would say that The Body Fights Back adequately addresses many of the main talking points she discusses with her clients. But if the documentary is supposed to change minds, neither she nor I are certain it succeeds; it seems custom made for a niche audience who are already bought into what the film is selling. It’s unfortunately a little too rough around the edges, and a little too focused on the extremes, to convince the masses to change their ways.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.