Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Review: "To The Bone" is a charming, yet familiar slice of life.

To The Bone Review
I am hoping for the day Netflix releases a movie so good that it compares to the success of their television shows. Don't get me wrong, I love and continue to love "Beasts of No Nation" and "Okja," but those never got the buzz I hoped it would get. There was chatter early in the days of Netflix original cinematic content that these streaming services would replace the movie theater. If Netflix keeps going at the rate it is going, I don't think movie theater owners need to worry. I wouldn't say everything Netflix releases is horrible, but their cinematic content has mostly been stuff that I don't feel the need to watch again.

Such is the case of "To The Bone"

"To The Bone" features two great performances, one by Lilly Collins who completely disappears in her role. The other is by Keanu Reeves, who has had a rebirth in his own career that has been immensely exciting to watch unfold over the past few years. The film tackles the delicate world of anorexia and the affects it has on the body and the people in the victims orbit. I was never anorexic, I never knew anybody that was anorexic. I got most of my knowledge of the devastating effects of the disorder from a cheesy movie I watched in high school health class. I understand its a serious disorder and it can be prime material for a good movie.

But "To The Bone" is just so ordinary that nothing really matters. Its another independent slice-of-life type movies. A movie about the hero trying to get better or overcome an overbearing obstacle. We have seen them all before. Hero has something wrong in their life, it is starting to affect those around them, the hero gets some quirky help, maybe they fall in love, then they realize the medicine was in them the whole time, they learn life lessons, they get better on their own. This is a pretty common template for movies made independently. Yes, there are some funny parts, and yes it packed with memorable actors. But the spine of the story, the thematic bones of the idea, they are so painfully familiar that I can't help but be bored by it.

Like I said, Collins disappears in the role. She is sickly, she is ultra-skinny, she looks like somebody who has a bad anorexic disorder. This is what method acting looks like, I have no idea how much of this look in performance was a conceit, but I don't really care. She looks authentic, and the look mixed with the powerful performance will at least keep the attention span of the audience intrigued. Keanu Reeves, who has turned some good performances as of late, can another good performance to his resume. I don't know what has suddenly woke Reeves up, but I have enjoyed this streak of great performances that have engulfed us. 

People like Lili Taylor and Brooke Smith show up and detail some good supporting work. But the next best performance was by Alex Sharpe. Collins' character goes to a retreat to get over her anorexia with others who also have the disorder. She meets Alex Sharpe's character, and he eventually becomes the love interest. Sharpe takes a fairly one-dimensional character on the page and turns him into one of the highlights of the movie. He refuses to be the typical love interest we see in movies like this, while what happened between these characters is highly familiar, they at least make a little something out of it.

"To The Bone" in lots of ways feels like an arthouse movie on a nothing budget that came out in the early to mid 2000's. A depressing look at a loner with a disorder that worked like a gimmick, then they went on to learn life lessons from it. There are tons of movies that fit this mold. I have seen those movies. I have liked some, loved others, and felt others were either bad or mediocre. I want independent filmmakers to do more with their limited resources, or if not, tell a story in a new manner.


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