Jill is obsessed with her new roommate Jennifer, a promiscuous and sexy hotshot in the LA Fashion scene. New to the city and recently single, Jill is unable to keep up as she binges and purges to stay thin; eventually hating herself and everyone around her. Her jealousy and rage spiral out of control -- Jennifer has everything, and Jill wants to be just like her. If Jill can't BE Jennifer, she must destroy her.
March 8, 2016
Sigrid Gilmer, Patrick Kennelly
Bethany Orr as Jill
Mary Loveless as Jennifer
Excess Flesh blends arthouse and strong commentary to form what proves to be an intense and disconcerting film. But it isn’t the kind of film that’s going to work for a lot of different audiences. In fact, I’d venture to say that there’s a relatively small fan base waiting to embrace this one. However, make no mistake, while I really don’t believe Excess Flesh will catch on to any great degree, I’m not for a single second bashing the film, or downplaying its impact. This is a picture that will have your stomach rolling and your head spinning.
How you interpret the film may decide on how you view yourself, and what opinions you hold of the fashion business. Excess Flesh sees the relationship between two radically different roommates rapidly disintegrate as Jill – an emotionally unstable and extremely self-conscious soul – grows weary and frustrated with Jennifer’s neglect. Jill needs love. She needs reassurance. She needs to feel better about herself. She needs good people in her life. Jennifer promises all of these things, but spends so much time being self-absorbed that she’s never once there for her roommate. And when Jennifer begins fooling around with Jill’s love interest, she snaps, tying the woman up and torturing her before finally reaching a heartbreaking climax that’s going to have you squirming in your seat.
Excess Flesh employs a slow but steady pace and delivers visceral shots of junk food being inhaled and gnawed to bits. And while you may read that sentence and think, so what! What’s the big deal? I’d implore you to watch the picture to feel the very real wrenching effects of these sequences. The consumption in the film is disgusting, and generally precedes some vile act of violence. It’s absolutely jarring and repugnant. It forces the viewer to develop hatred and sympathy – in equal measure – for two troubled ladies with serious eating disorders. It also ignites a little self-denigration, because we slowly take on a very real dislike for humanity. For individuals and all of our very noticeable weaknesses and flaws.
That is, in large part, what Excess Flesh is all about: Examining and evaluating ourselves and others, all the while getting an inside glimpse of the demands and debilitating practices of the fashion industry. If you’re paying attention the message should really reverberate in your core, a direct result of co-writer/director Patrick Kennelly’s deliberate style of directing. Kennelly draws scenes out for impact and it’s a very successful approach to the subject matter. There’s something absolutely nauseating about watching a woman masticate macaroni and cheese before spitting – and vomiting – it into a garbage can… for about 12 minutes straight! If you don’t think food can be frightening, you haven’t seen Excess Flesh.
Bethany Orr does an amazing job as Jill, our wounded spirit. Mary Loveless’s performance will have you hating the character’s existence. These two performers carry the weight of a full screenplay on their shoulders. There are a few bit players (who represent themselves extremely well), but it really all comes down to the work put forth by these two leading ladies. And I don’t think I can praise either of them enough. These are award-worthy performances. These are performances that could easily catapult either – or both – women into genuine stardom. For two thespians with less than 30 combined credits, they’re absolutely marvelous. Can’t be praised enough – just cannot be praised enough.
And despite all of the remarkably well-executed things we see from Excess Flesh, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t absolutely hate the film. I hated it. I hated it with an unbridled passion. None of that deep disdain emanates from technical deficiencies. Rather, I hate the film because it’s so damn successful in being exactly what it aims to be. I myself suffer from clinical depression, an issue that’s often spawned miserable decision making, abuse and personal mutilation. It’s not fun to live with. It’s a miserable life and the last thing I want to do is get a small glimpse of myself on the big screen. I have a hard time looking at myself in the mirror – to see slivers of my own personality unravel in front of me as a means of entertainment… well, it’s a bit too heavy to deal with. But it does speak volumes to the talent of Kennelly, co-writer Sigrid Gilmer and our leading ladies, Orr and Loveless. These four have set out to create a profoundly distressing horror film and they’ve accomplished their goals, and then some.
I’ll never watch Excess Flesh again (I skipped dinner after checking out the film, a direct result of the bearing the film had on me). No chance. It’s too sickening. It’s too frightening. It’s too damn close to my own personal story. This may be the first film that I’ve ever legitimately hated a movie while openly acknowledging its sheer brilliance. I suppose if I’m going to hate something with a passion, it may as well be a masterful horror film that never misses a beat. Look into it, it’ll stick to more than your bones, it’ll stick to your soul.