Studio: Midnight Releasing
Director: Patrick Kennelly
Writer: Sigrid Gilmer, Patrick Kennelly
Producer: Leo Garcia, Patrick Kennelly
Stars: Bethany Orr, Mary Loveless, Wes McGee, Sheresade Poblet, Jill Jacobson, Dana L. Wilson, Kristin Minter, Juan Riedinger, Braeden Baade, Allen Rueckert
An introverted homebody imprisons her socialite roommate when the tension between their personalities hits a breaking point.
Jennifer is the epitome of a skin-deep Los Angeles beauty. You know the type. Pearl necklaces and fur coats. Luscious locks and mascara-lined eyes. A pretty face populated by condescending, contemptible sneers and a personality as hollow as her stomach, both starved into emptiness so as not to bloat the wire-thin model frame that earns her a living.
Jill embodies an unremarkably plain, seemingly harmless girl next door. You know her type, too. Pajama pants and frumpy sweaters. Stringy hair and a makeup-less face. A proclivity for bringing her knees to her chest while joining her body with the couch, binge eating junk food and binge watching reality TV.
Unlikely as roommates, and unlikelier as friends, Jennifer and Jill are not as entirely dissimilar as their descriptions may read. Both are obsessed with self-image. Both are in over their heads in the swallowing sea of Hollywood without consciously realizing it. And both are unhappy with who they truly are, as well as who they are unfortunately becoming.
Jennifer refuses to acknowledge her internal disgust, content to distract herself with noisy parties, vapid hangers-on, a revolving door of hard-bodied lovers, and the unending derision of her roommate’s homebody lifestyle. Jill on the other hand, privately wallows in self-hatred. Each excessive spoonful of cheese-slathered macaroni is delivered with a literal slap to the face, perceived as just punishment for an inability to be disciplined when it is so much easier to stay hidden from the world in her bedroom.
Although these two women have divergent coping mechanisms for cyclical depression, their paths are positioned to collide when Jill decides she has gorged too much on Jennifer’s bile and spent too much time chasing the shadow of a person she will never be. Figuratively locked in the prison of her mind, Jill’s solution is to literally lock Jennifer in the prison of their apartment, with the ultimate goal of reinventing herself by unraveling her roommate.
Director and co-writer Patrick Kennelly might identify “Excess Flesh” as a film involving feelings of isolation, anxiety, and the struggle against hopelessness to achieve a satisfying individuality. Despite invoking core themes so deeply steeped in loneliness and singularity, “Excess Flesh” is just as much of a movie about duality, delusion, and a confrontation between the identity you think you want and the identity you actually have.
Audiences expecting a conventional suspense thriller will quickly discover that “Excess Flesh” shares more in common with arthouse indie aesthetics than with marketable-to-the-mainstream commercial fare like “Single White Female” or “The Roommate.” Carrying over Kennelly’s background in theater and experimental video projects, “Excess Flesh” bears the distinct aura of a two-person interpretive play, with actresses Bethany Orr (Jill) and Mary Loveless (Jennifer) occupying the claustrophobic space of a single apartment for nearly the entirety of the runtime. Applying that stage language to a cinematic format doesn’t always translate into smooth storytelling for the film, in turn installing a learning curve requiring that a patient viewer acclimate to its atmosphere.
The first act begins bumpily while “Excess Flesh” works at establishing its slightly surreal approach. Irregular implementation of slow motion, sudden cuts to POV camera angles, and an odd obsession with close-ups of chewed food in open mouths make for a disorienting introduction occasionally lingering too long in certain moments. It is a sometimes confusing style inviting questions regarding the film’s confidence in its direction and commitment to the vision transporting it there.
Yet as the movie moves into juxtaposing Pop Tarts in private with hard drugs in public as similarly destructive vices, and the consistent cacophony of mastication melds with metal spoons scraping tooth enamel, “Excess Flesh” takes on a hypnotic tone capable of capturing those sensitive to its messages about a perilous sense of self and the feverish pursuit of unhealthy ideals. Comparisons to “Starry Eyes” (review here) will inevitably be drawn for the film pulling a nightmare from misconceived notions of success and glamour set against the false glitz of Hollywood, even though “Excess Flesh” is less reliant on its Tinseltown location to be relatable. “Excess Flesh” may not have the same straight horror entertainment appeal as “Starry Eyes,” but its central theme of confinement keeps it strong as a cautionary parable about being consumed by idealistic fantasy, and the dangerous transgressions one might commit to achieve an unobtainable goal.
Review Score: 70