Thursday, March 31, 2011

Joe Cross' FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD is a surprisingly inspirational "juicer" tract

Who's Joe Cross? Among other things, he's the co-director (with Kurt Engfehr), producer, star and subject of the new documentary FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD. Does this sound like a vanity production? Maybe. But how vain is it to show a gut like Mr. Cross bore, just pre-vious to beginning his 60-day, Sydney-to-New York and then cross-country, vegetable-juice "fast"?  That was some gut, and we see all of it at the beginning of this tell-all confession that comes off like a non-stop commercial for a diet of vegetables, fruits, nuts and beans. Maybe it is that commercial. If so, TrustMovies would still like to buy in.

They say that there are none more committed than the recently converted. And at times, this film comes awfully close to a kind of religious revival -- with vegetable juice playing the role usually given to Jesus, Moses, Buddha or Muhammad. Yet so convincingly does this story -- two stories, really -- play itself out, that I think you won't mind at all being "preached to" by a fellow as funny, charming and, yes, "real" as Mr. Cross. (A propos the end of the above paragraph: the filmmaker/star does have his own company devoted to a vegetable-and-fruit juice lifestyle that anyone of the heavy-set persuasion might want to try. Called Reboot Your Life, it's accessible via the click of your mouse.)

Back to the movie itself: Cross begins in media res, buying some fresh vegetables somewhere down south. He then tells us why he (and by extension, we) are here, shows us that fat, fat belly and figure he possessed a short time ago, and also explains the particular autoimmune disease with which he has been diagnosed. (He says it's akin to having chronic hives.) Cross has come by now to the point at which so many addicts arrive: a kind of do or die. So he decides, with the help of his medical professionals, to go on this vegetable/juice fast diet, as he spends a month in one of his favorite cities, New York, and then spends the second juicy month traveling the country.

Along the way he meets a number of very obese people, whom he engages in conversations that come off so suprisingly genuine and honest that they are a pleasure to see and hear. An Australian by birth, Cross possesses that rather typical Aussie self-deprecating humor that goes a long way in endearing him to the folk he meets -- and to us viewers.

One day, at a truck stop, the filmmaker runs into an even heavier fellow (Phil Staples, above, 429 pounds) who has, in the film's biggest surprise, the same autoimmune disease as does Cross. This is a first for the filmmaker, and he bonds with the guy noticeably before taking his leave.

In the middle of the film -- just at the point at which Cross has finished his own fast and is feeling fine and fit -- something happens and Cross get a phone call.  I will say no more because what occurs from this point onwards is so unusual, moving and finally inspiring that it turns the film into something quite different than you might have expected. I think this movie might just get a large number of us Americans off our plump asses and into a healthier lifestyle. We shall see....  (I particularly hope that the subject of last year's "fat" film Lbs. gets to see Mr. Cross' film.)

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (you've got to have one very large set of balls, have a fine sense of irony or be very dumb -- to give your movie a title like that) opens this Friday, April 1, at New York's Quad Cinema.  It will also be playing all across the country, with Mr. Cross making personal appearances at many of the scheduled venues. You can find all the playdates, cities and theaters here.

Addendum: For those interested in Mr. Cross and his crusade, here's a recent interview with the fellow via House of Fraser that also features some maybe tasty recipes....

All photographs by Daniel Marracino, 
except that of Mr. Cross, lifting a glass at top,
which is by Michele Aboud.

No comments: