Trading in stereotypes but genuine about its affection for outsiders, Fat Girls plays like a gayer, more kindhearted, and more aesthetically challenged version of Napoleon Dynamite. Writer-director-star Ash Christian made this debut at the age of 20, which goes some way toward explaining its easy caricatures, crude visuals (which, meager budget or not, are sub-par even by today’s slack indie standards), and clichéd getting-ready-to-go-out sequence set to “I’m Too Sexy.” Yet despite its many shortcomings, Christian’s film exhibits an understanding for high school cliquishness and the ensuing sense of alienation felt by those who don’t fit in. That’s certainly something experienced by Rodney (Christian), a gay high school senior in conservative Texas who thinks of himself as a spiritual “fat girl.” Christian doesn’t stress this sharp analogy even after introducing Randall’s honest-to-goodness obese best friend Sabrina (Ashley Fink), a heavily mascara-ed wiseass who wears her unpopular status like a badge, and who winds up dating Rudy (Robin de Jesus), a weird Cuban kid who functions as a funny Pedro-like sidekick. Such Napoleon Dynamite derivativeness is frustrating, though not as much as the general lack of humor. Where laughs should flourish, only wan smiles exist, in large part because Rodney, whose primary response to events is “Holy crap,” isn’t a very engaging protagonist, and also because many scenes seem to have been conceived without any clear idea of how they should end. Nonetheless, Christian’s playful sense of self-mockery helps alleviate the banal condescension directed toward intolerant hetero rednecks and Randall’s devout mom (Deborah Theaker), who cooks meals with Bible-themed names like “Jesus Jambalaya.” And Fat Girls’ portrait of its small town high school milieu (badly lit hallways, lethargic kids, tacky classrooms), as well as Tarnation auteur Jonathan Caouette’s stunning drag performance as Liza Minnelli, feels immediate and authentic even when the story’s perfunctory machinations don’t.
- Regent Releasing
- 83 min
- Ash Christian
- Ash Christian
- Ash Christian, Jonathan Caouette, Ashley Fink, Robin de Jesus, Deborah Theaker, Alexa Havins, Justin Bruening, Ellen Albertini Dow
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