Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead: Weighed Down With Doc Cliches

Virtually every documentary cliché from the past decade finds its way into this account of director Joe Cross’s weight-loss odyssey, a retread-reversal of Super Size Me right down to the cheesy animation. An earnest, likable Aussie day-trader with money to burn, Cross traverses the United States for two months in the company of a camera crew and his beloved juicing machine, shedding 90 pounds and alleviating the effects of an autoimmune disease in the process. He stumbles across some genuine insights into the woeful American diet along the way in funny, frank chats with overweight Yanks, but sidesteps the role of race and class in the matter and fails outright to indict the processed-food industry. Just when it all begins to resemble an interminable juicer infomercial, Cross meets and converts 429-pound Phil, a gentle-hearted, near-broken Iowa truck driver whose physical and emotional turnaround (on Cross’s dime) is inspiring in every sense. Cross, or perhaps a savvy PA, has the good sense to shift the focus to Phil’s story, but while it’s hard to find fault in a filmed crusade against the tyranny of crummy “food,” you have to wonder if cable would’ve gotten the message out to more people.

 
My Voice Nation Help
19 comments
dbnotbob
dbnotbob

I wasted 10 minutes signing up for this site I'll never use again because I totally care about what I'm about to say to this self important critic. Why would you bring up race with the issue of obesity? I totally understand that obesity impacts different races in differing ways, but are you that guy to criticize someone for not going down that complicated route? Idiocy! And you also criticize him for not calling out the processed food industry outright. Seriously, dude! This is why you may not become a great writer. Good storytelling leaves it to the viewers to outright anything. You should not be allowed to give your opinion in any public venue. Frankly, and I mean this from the depths of my hurting heart, stop looking for race in art that isn't about such. Grow up and write about art you like or dislike; not sociological things you think you understand, but obviously do not. Thanks.

alexander6000
alexander6000

@dbnotbob Race matters because in African American communities, there are often not even grocery stores, just convenience food marts that sell only processed crap. They are called nutritional dead zones and it matters as to food consumption vs. income. If you don't understand that you need to do some more research. I hope that answers your question.

fionaj
fionaj like.author.displayName 1 Like

amazing movie. The reviewer here seems to have missed the point.

Zack
Zack like.author.displayName 1 Like

What is with this nonsense about race and class? So he failed to twist the subject into somehow "...it's whitey's fault that poor people of color can be overweight the same as anyone else"? The reviewer clearly failed to spot that in just about every case, each person admits they have no one but themselves to blame for what they eat. Black people, white people, poor people, rich people- almost all the interviewees state the same thing- it's their own fault, and no one forced them to eat a bad diet.

The whole silly point is one that smacks of spoiled suburb dwellers that believe healthy food only comes from Whole Foods at a marked up price. Meanwhile, Cross makes a point of getting fresh vegetables cheap from rural roadside stands, markets in the heart of NYC right next to the usual fast food, etc. etc. And before anyone kneejerks about the inner city, I live in LA and most of the best places to get fresh vegetables are in poor neighborhoods. Whole Foods and expensive grocery stores are actually among the worst places, for those too spoiled to venture away from the west side. Similar is true of other cities.

This has nothing to do with race and class. Decent food is available everywhere, just like junk food is, and people of all races and classes are fully capable of making their own choices. Anyone paying attention watching this, would notice that most people admit as much themselves. I for one am glad Cross didn't delve into some stupid race-baiting nonsense to plat to the preconceived notions of spoiled suburb-dwellers.

alexander6000
alexander6000

@Zack You are clearly uninformed as to the nutritional dead zones in minority communities where there is often not a grocer that even sells fresh fruits and veg for miles. Or maybe your just another racist conservative that has deluded themselves into thinking there are no issues involving race in this nation, or poverty for that matter. Grow up and get informed.

Wereallsoboring
Wereallsoboring

Also, your experience as a rich white dude might, eh, y'know, be different from a poor persons.

Wereallsoboring
Wereallsoboring

POVERTY.

My mom, a poor black nurse, tried this diet. It worked until we started hemorrhaging money.

SHUT UP.

Frajda
Frajda

I thought this movie was inspirational and very informative about how to go about helping yourself to better health. I have already gotten my juicer and am on my way. Joe never claims to be a film maker. He is who he says he is. As for Indicting the food industry, I believe it's exactly what he did. Certainly cable could get the message out to more people, but what does that have to do with anything. I am so glad I found this film on Netflix. I thank Joe for making this film, and I think your criticism is there because you believe you must criticize everything in order to earn your title.

Sparrow
Sparrow

I'd like to add the following:

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/n...Table 7: 2009 data for the US.

In the age group of 45 - 64, cancer and heart disease are the leading causes of death. Heart disease and possibly cancer are often diet-related diseases.

In the age group of 25 - 44, these are the second and third leading causes of death, second only to accidents (possibly alcohol-related).

In sum, these two causes account for nearly 300,000 deaths per year in *just these two age groups*.

It goes to show that the subject matter of the documentary - losing weight and eating healthy - is the most important message Americans need to hear. It makes me think that a "War on Diet" would have more cheaply and effectively saved American lives than either the "War on Drugs" or the "War on Terror".

Sparrow
Sparrow

Mr. Holcomb, not every film has to be cynical of industry, justified as they are. It is fresh to find a health food documentary that breaks from that mold, offering only in passing comments by a doctor which implicate the system.

Joe's demeanor as he interviews people throughout the US is very telling of Joe's goal in making this film. His casual interviews seem to all follow the same line: "Look at what I'm doing. What do you think of that? What is your diet like? Are you where you want to be?" His goal in these interviews, and in the documentary, is not to point fingers, but just to ask questions and to showcase an alternative.

Is the film's delivery corny? Yes, you're right about that, but the subject matter is corny - Joe has the secret to incredibly rapid weight loss and health improvement - and it'll cost you a juicer and a week to two months of fruits and vegetables.

Lastly, you mention that the entire film seemed to be plug for juicer manufacturers. I'm sure you were just exaggerating. The brand of Joe's juicer remains nameless. Also, when Phil's health food store procures several blenders, it is not mentioned whether these blenders were donated or bought, nor from which company. I feel you're being overly critical, Mr. Holcomb.

Daphne
Daphne

Is he advocating juice in conjunction with a healthy diet, or in place of real food altogether? If people were eating a healthy diet, they wouldn't need the juice or this plan, so what's the point? Who's going to switch to juice for the rest of their life LOL we have sharp teeth for a reason right?

Sparrow
Sparrow

He's advocating a brief period of "fasting" where you only drink juiced vegetables and fruits. Joe does not advocate, nor practice, a permanent switch to juice.

Apparently, this diet allows obese people to melt off the weight in weeks. Joe was overweight at the beginning of the film and looked downright awesome by the end. Phil was morbidly obese and completely reversed his condition. The woman who fasted stopped having migraine headaches, apparently.

It's not a long flick, and it's very inspiring.

VegiJen
VegiJen

This is a good review. I ended up fast forwarding because the interviews started becoming redundant. Instead of showing people how to eat right it focused too much on the juice fast. Any super low calorie diet will make you lose weight. Learning how to eat right is golden. I don't know everything about the effects of juicing but I do know that the bowels need fiber to function. Fiber has no calories and makes us feel full and satiated. At the end of this documentary I still thought the subject looked unfit. Weightloss does now always equal fit. For the best information on using food for medicine and losing weight and getting off meds, I highly recommend Dr. McDougall. You can get a lot of free information at his site www.drmcdougall.com. When I follow his advice, I feel amazing and my arthritis symptoms disappear.

Drcircle
Drcircle like.author.displayName 1 Like

I really think this is a bad review of "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead." First of all, Mr. Holcomb's major condemnation of this film is that it is nothing more than a compilation of modern documentary film clichés. I agree that this is true, but I would argue that it was not the filmmaker's intent to create an avant-garde documentary that would shake the foundations of the film industry. Additionally, the crux of the film (the weight loss method and diet journeys) is fresh and not a cliché. Second, there are some errors in the review itself. This is most notable wherein Mr. Holcomb states "it fails outright to indict the processed-food industry," but the filmmaker has several interviews with healthcare professionals who clearly state the role that processed food has with our nations poor overall health. Third, Mr. Holcomb refers to the filmmaker as a "day-trader with money to burn" as if this should impact our reception of this film. I could argue that due to Mr. Cross's monetary wealth this film was not an attempt at a "get rich quick" scheme or to peddle juicers (as Mr. Holcomb implies). Moreover, I would argue that some of the best documentaries have been made by wealth filmmakers (some of whom are cutting-edge documentary makers whose films are devoid of clichés, Mr. Holcomb). Furthermore, irregardless of the filmmakers personal wealth, he took a lot of time do something positive, especially going out of his way to help out Phil. Lastly, Mr. Holcomb criticizes the filmmaker for ignoring the social and cultural aspects of poor nutrition and health. I will cede this point, as long as we aren’t too critical of the filmmaker (he is, after all, not an American and may be much less familiar with this element).

Dissentinglemming
Dissentinglemming

I've worked in the vitamins section of a natural food store for years and after becoming slowly jaded by New England consumers' (myself included) want for the answer to overall health to be in natural pills, I found this film to be a refreshing change of message and delivery despite the cliches.Although the critic is right to believe that race and sociology-economic factors were predictably only implied, if not totally left out by the tycoon-ish filmmaker, the overall message and example that he and the truck driver set in the documentary were surprisingly inspiring. This is primarily due to the fact that the concept of plant food nutrient density was accented and coupled with the fact that these foods are a challenge to eat unless juiced. I've found far more people who walk into my store's supplement section willing to take pills, drink fresh lemonade and cayenne powder, and/or even exercise before having to eat their fruits and veggies because of the effort and patience the mouth and pallet need to have in order to consume enough of said foods to make a difference. Furthermore people who DO eat the good stuff either either cook it to anywhere between steamed to mushed or only THINK they're eating enough of it, and likely don't make proportionate comparisons to the processed foods they eat.So although the documentary's format was pretty tired, the methodology was new and honest: it ain't easy, but neither is living like you do, and drinking your fruits and veggies is easier than eating them, so try it for ten days and earmark how you feel; you're nutrition-unsavvy doctor will likely endorse it and it's all stuff you know you should have been eating all along, so what better way to catch up than by way of an inexpensive liquid cram session that you will likely repeat? Oh ya, and fruits and veggies cannot be branded or patented, so the only gimmicks will be the juicers...which will basically work al the same way in the end.

bugsbunny
bugsbunny

for me it was all about personal responsibility, as admitted by joe and phil, and also the large percentage of people on the street interviewed who stated plainly that they ate unhealthy and weren't going to even try to change that habit. a truly inspiring film that is generally about owning up to one's choices and specifically about the journeys of two men from despair and near death to positivity and hope, something that any person would be proud to represent.

A+

Andrew
Andrew

I think this reviewer failed to grasp the message of the film. In fact, the role of the fast- and processed-food industry is indicated clearly in the movie, including the sequences in New York in which an interviewee notes the difficulty in resisting junk food when BK and McDonalds are on every corner. And the significance of race and class is evident: Cross interviews many African-Americans and many working people in truck stops and greasy spoons (and of course, Phil himself is a truck driver!).But rather than simply pontificating about social issues, Cross is presenting a path away from poor nutrition and disease. In showing the courage of two men - from very different social backgrounds - to take responsibility for their health and well-being, he conveys a message of hope for those who feel powerless to control their eating or who are told to "lose weight" by their doctors without an understanding of how that might be achievable. Phil's story is particularly powerful in this respect, insofar as he shows that health and weight loss are achievable for the average guy and not just for the rich and wealthy.Overweight and obesity and their health complications including type 2 diabetes are quickly becoming one of the most pressing social issues of our time. Perhaps these problems will eventually be resolved through a combination of social change and political pressure in this country, as with smoking. However, right now, those who want to take personal responsibility would do well to watch this film. Most importantly, it shows that overweight is a disease of "nutritional ignorance," but that rather than another ineffective fad diet, there is a way to achieve lasting weight loss and health for the committed. This film itself is a kind of medicine.

Jimmy Herberchuk
Jimmy Herberchuk

Most of the things Joe Cross is informing us about, should be common sence. Americans are naive, (yes, I am an American), lazy, and generally do not care what they put into there bodies. Not only food, but pharmacuticals as well. Most Americans do not think twice if a Doctor tells them to swallow five or six pills a day. I think it is outragous that Doctors prescibe pills for every ache, pain, rash, and erctile disorder in this country. Doctors are suppose to be caring for our well being. When in fact, most of the "medicine" we ingest is causing us more harm, than good. It is definetly time that we as Americans, and human beings for that matter, wake up, and start listening to our own bodies, and not the PhD who owns stock in five of the six perscirptions that he just wrote you. Wake up people. I know we all die...It's part of life. But this toxic waste is killing us faster than anyone wants. Start eating REAL food, and stop eating junk. You literally are what you eat. If you eat junk, you are junk. Plain and simple.

Melimel_c76
Melimel_c76

i think it was very inspiring and i agree with you that it does nothing to blame the processed food industry. most people just go in a store and buy whats on sale-in the state of the economy i dont blame them-but reading the website and other resources he has a true way to lose weight! do a perimeter shop around the store is what my mom always told me-never go in the middle thats where all the process is. produce meat fish and dairy are always laid out around the process foods. also my mother taught me that if the ingredient has more than 5 and cannot pronounce them do not buy it! i do that when i shop with my son. he wanted go-gurt(many many chemicals he didnt know what to do) so i convinced him to read the stonyfield farm label-5 ingredients he read perfectly and knew what they were! it sounds simple but it takes so much time and effort and i think that us americans are naturally in a hurry so we just grab grab grab what is easy or quck

 

Now Showing

Find capsule reviews, showtimes & tickets for all films in town.

Box Office Report

Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!

Loading...