City Paper is not for tourists
It might have been, had Famiglietti chosen to present his struggle as documentary instead of fiction—or if he and the rest of the cast weren’t such awful actors, delivering the clunky script in harsh Noo Yawk accents that help the film seem more appropriate for a 3 a.m. slot on the Hallmark Movie Channel. (Fun fact: Lbs., shelved since 2004, actually had an offer for a cable release. But the boys wanted a chance at the big time!)
The least of the film’s flaws is insisting that Neil is in his 20s, when in reality Farmiglietti is a decade older (and looks it). The storytelling is worse: After his heart attack, Neil sorta-follows doctor’s orders about a new diet but continues to have friends sneak him food. Somehow, Neil’s close call derails his sister’s wedding, resulting in plenty of head-scratching hostility from his future brother-in-law: Now, he tells Neil, “her wedding is a joke! All [you] care about is eating. You’re a loser with no future. You’re a fucking nothing!” Um, OK.
Based on his family alone, you can understand why Neil decides to buy a rundown trailer in the middle of nowhere in order to keep the city’s culinary temptations far away and focus solely on diet and exercise. He initially brings his addict friend, Sacco (Michael Aronov), along with him, asking that he spend at least two weeks out in the country to try to detox from drugs while Neil detoxes from food. They argue about which addiction is more difficult—pretty much the only semi-substantial conversation in the film—and Sacco soon high-tails it, though he refuses to tell Neil’s mother where he’s staying.
Despite Neil’s eventual slimming, Lbs. doesn’t exactly offer a kick in the ass for anyone looking to get fit themselves. First of all, his method is extreme and unsustainable. (Though arguably no more so than The Biggest Loser.) Bulimia suddenly becomes an issue for exactly one scene, without any clue regarding whether Neil repeatedly went down that path whenever he relapsed. The awkward dialogue, too, renders the film nearly unwatchable, particularly during a brief fling Neil has with a trailer neighbor (Miriam Shor): “My back is killing me,” he tells her. “How about some sex?” she responds. “I like you, and I want to have sex with you.” There’s not even a contraction or sloppy enunciation to soften these robot-ready conversations.
Hurrah to Famiglietti for his dedication to improve his health and, just as crucial, showing that not even the most disciplined dieter is going to make perfect choices every day. The script makes it clear that Neil’s situation is an addiction, and therefore a battle he’s likely going to fight for the rest of his life. If only sitting through this portrayal required less resolve than turning down that double cheeseburger.