Too Fat? Too Thin? America the Beautiful 2 Weighs In


A follow-up to director Darryl Roberts’s 2008 inquiry into this country’s ad-bolstered beauty standards, America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments is a choppy, unfocused, intermittently compelling report on the tortured, fluctuating state of the national backside. Of Roberts’s many self-evident queries—Do diets work? Is health care corrupt? Does eating only raw food sap your will to live?—one of them finds its answer in the flawed nature of the question: Are we too fat or too thin? Lugubrious narration and a sub-Casio score detract from an already scattered progression that goes from discrediting the BMI Index to a medical checkup—the director’s first in a decade—where Roberts is told he’s a few cheeseburgers short of a stroke. After prolonged nose-wrinkling over vegan meals and trailing a pack-a-day smoker obsessed with working out, Roberts discovers moderation. From there, he skims from tack to topical tack, moving between arguments for health at any size to interviews with slippery political characters who cry “public health” while, in one case, double-dealing with Weight Watchers. Studies of desperately troubled individuals—including a tanking anorectic and some eating-disordered boys—enforce the film’s only salient idea: Looking outside of yourself for a standard of health and size is the fastest way to lose perspective.

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