Writer/director Jimmy Weber has taken on quite the task with his film EAT. Focusing on Novella McClure (Meggie Maddock), a struggling actress in L.A., she has to contend with all of the many negatives that come with being a female in an image obsessed society. The expectation that a woman should always behave friendly and flirty, but not too flirty, put out when it's deemed necessary, hold down a career, friends and try to lead a happy life all while hitting just the right level of sexy impeccability is exhausting just to think about. Imagine trying to live it. You may end up finding a career in body modification or you may end up consuming your own flesh, but more on that similarity later.
The movie begins with a fun music montage of Novella getting ready for her day. As a song about how incredibly looks-driven the world has become, she gussies herself up from head to toe. With her stereotypical blondorexic hair color, heavily applied makeup, red nails, tight dress and super-high high heels, Novella goes to multiple unsuccessful auditions only to come home to an empty refrigerator in her apartment that she hasn't paid rent on for three months.
Discussions about generic modeling agencies actually being porn companies, women who have no problem getting on their knees to score a role and, generally, being treated like a thing to be owned or paraded around are all just normal, daily occurrences for Novella and it is taking it's toll. Her disorder starts out innocently enough with some aggressive nail biting and then slowly escalates into some truly cringe worthy binge eating moments. The effects on the film are, mostly, fantastic and Maddock goes all out when it comes to literally consuming herself.
Novella's best friend Candice is played with spot on self absorbed apathy by Ali Francis. At one moment, Candice is a great friend who watches out for Novella while they're at a club and the next, she is completely unconcerned about her alleged suicide attempt, eviction notice, hospital bill and lack of job. Candice applauds Novella's will to keep struggling and fighting to become an actress while she sludges through work at a hair salon. Her pessimistic view of life is like a bad disease that she tries to shake off onto Novella, but is also a kind of disorder of her own. The things Candice says and does, but does not find nearly as alarming as she should, are definitely on a special level of crazy and this unravels in it's own kind of unhealthy emotional attachment.
Despite the fact that these two are intelligent and independent women, they waste their evenings conversing with men at nightclubs in order to get free drinks. As expected, two of the men do not take kindly to this and decide that they should be reciprocated for their generosity with alcoholic beverages. The manner in which Candice deals with these men and their disgusting, stereotypical behavior is simultaneously shocking and hilarious.
Novella is a woman trying to get ahead in life without having to use her looks as her only valid form of currency. With the exception of her sweet landlady, everyone that she holds close is only there for her when it's convenient for them and this only leads Novella deeper into her disorder. At this point you have to wonder how much of this responsibility is on Novella. All of the jerkface guys that expect her to perform sexually for them and her "best friend" have one thing in common:Novella. She consistently shrugs off help from the people who are genuinely concerned about her and, instead, chooses to surround herself with ugly people who create such anxiety in her that she starts eating her flesh. The idea that Novella is a poor innocent who was forced into this by everyone but herself is too hard to swallow and that's really my biggest complaint. I just wish that she had taken on some of the responsibility herself.
As I alluded to earlier, it's hard to watch EAT and not compare it to the Soska sisters' tour de force commentary on society's perceived expectations of women, American Mary. Obviously, these are two separate movies, but it's hard to not draw a line between the two and the fact that Novella never really owns her responsibility in the misery she has created for herself is what didn't sit well with me. For brief moments, she will take the onus, but then it always ends up being the fault of someone else; usually a man. Every time you begin to feel genuinely sorry for the girl, she starts screaming at that shrill level about how this is everyone else's fault. Also, the decision that her and her best friend ultimately come to didn't really make any sense at all. Or perhaps it was just over my head; at this point in the movie you have already been asked to accept so much.
EAT is a lower budget film and while I don't find this to be a negative, some of the dialogue is stilted and awkward and some of the financial restrictions show through. Maddock, specifically, seems to be at her best when the truly disturbing and heavy scenes come up. Her monologue at an audition is great and it's too bad that we didn't see more of that Novella throughout the film.
With a mix of humor, seriousness, social commentary and some awesome gore, EAT delivers the goods and looks beautiful doing it. Novella is every woman and though some of the movie takes itself a little too seriously, overall, it's a wonderful commentary on men, women, looks and expectations; the last ten minutes are fantastic with the film ending on a strangely sublime, yet creepy tone. Be sure to stay until the end of the credits for a bonus bit of insanity; especially if you're a pet owner.
You can read more review from Lisa at Haddonfield Horror.com.