Movie Review: EXCESS FLESH
Quick, what’s the grossest thing you can imagine watching in close-up slow motion? If you said eating, you’re correct. If you said vomiting, you are also correct. Yes, there can be more than one correct answer, let’s move past it. Patrick Kennelly’s debut feature Excess Flesh features both in…well, excess. It’s part psychological and part horror, and all too hard to watch because it’s representative of the body image issues we’re dealt with today. In a very extreme way, mind you.
Jill (Bethany Orr) has one of the worst roommate situations you can possibly imagine. Jennifer (Mary Loveless) is obnoxious, rude, loud, disrespectful, cruel, and abusive. She’s also an anorexic fashionista, and beautiful, and while Jill isn’t ugly by any means, Jennifer makes her ugly through her actions. Jill just wants Jennifer to be her friend and is constantly backhanded away. The longing leads to jealousy and envy and painful self-effacing until one morning Jill snaps. Jennifer finds herself chained with both arms to the apartment wall and is about to endure a hazing from hell. If she can’t be like Jennifer, Jill will make her feel exactly how she does until they’re one in the same.
The best part of the movie is Orr’s all-out, unhinged performance. This character is crazy, but Orr makes her memorably INSANE. How much of the choices are hers and how much are Kennelly’s and part of the surreal script is a mystery, but I find it impossible to imagine another actress embodying this chaos as well. Orr one point is chugging a jar of mayonnaise followed by downing a huge amount of flour — that’s dedication. Kennelly keeps the movie really claustrophobic with a lot of tight shots in a really small setting that intensifies and amps up the gross factor. There are tones of Lynch and Cronenberg, too, along with a slight retro vibe that works well with the style and tone. He’s a director to watch for sure.
This is a strange film, something like a high-art Troma film that shoots for gross and violent and darkly humorous at the same time while avoiding the camp and cheese factor inherent with Troma. Around an hour in there’s a bizarre sex fantasy that turns into a nightmare which really embodied that concept, I’m not sure if I would have felt the same way without it. It’s actually more of a Single White Female yet more literal, and turned up to 11. At some point I began questioning what amount of the movie was real and what was fantasy, and the ending doesn’t exactly make that any easier. I’m not sure if there’s a correct way to interpret the movie or not, I may be trying to reach in deeper when the pool is really more shallow. Excess Flesh is an odd experience that I don’t regret, but I find recommending it to be difficult. Approach with caution.
An amazing performance from Bethany Orr, a gross and effective dissection of modern body issues.
Often too gross, definitely hard to watch and difficult to digest (no pun intended).