Talent matters

The whole film is just an excuse to show Rocky-type montages of fat guys training, with the twist.

fat guys 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
fat guys 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A MATTER OF SIZE Two stars Directed by Sharon Maymon and Erez Tadmor. Written by Maymon and Danny Cohen-Solal. Hebrew title: Sipur Gadol. 90 minutes. In Hebrew, check with theater if print has English titles. For the past few years, the organizers of the Jerusalem Film Festival have chosen to open with a light comedy, and this year's attraction, A Matter of Size, fits that pattern. But this light comedy (now playing throughout Israel) is about heavy people. Specifically, a group of obese Ramle residents who become sumo wrestlers. This kind of slick plot will be instantly familiar to anyone who watches American television or Hollywood movies. Although it takes place in Ramle, it could be set anywhere in the world. Except for some Israeli slang, there is nothing about it that is particular to this country and I suspect it was designed with an international audience in mind. It tells the story of Herzl (Itzik Cohen), an obese chef at a salad bar who gets fired because he turns off the customers. He lives with his mother (Levana Finkelstein), a bitter widow. In an effort to lose weight, he attends a weight-loss group. One of the film's running jokes is how incredibly nasty and negative the skinny leader (Evelin Hagoel) of the group is toward all the participants, particularly Herzl. Herzl's friends, Aharon (Dvir Benedek), Gidi (Alon Dahan) and Sami (Shmulik Cohen) are also struggling with their weight, although occasionally they manage to lose a kilo or two. After Itzik's fired, he is also kicked out of the weight-loss group. Taking a job as a dishwasher in a Japanese restaurant, he becomes fascinated with sumo wrestling, a sport all the waiters watch on TV. He learns that the inscrutable owner of the restaurant, Kitano (Togo Igawa), is a master sumo trainer. Before you can say, "Fat men in diapers," Herzl and his friends are training in the forest for a sumo competition. There are complications, of course. Zehava (Irit Kaplan), another weight watchers dropout, yearns to join the sumo team, but Kitano won't allow a woman to participate. She starts a tentative romance with Itzik, but wants him to quit sumo if she isn't allowed to wrestle. Each of his friends has a character-defining trait: One is gay, one suspects his thin wife is cheating on him and the other wants to be a serious journalist. But none of these subplots are of any consequence. The whole film is just an excuse to show Rocky-type montages of fat guys training, with the twist, which is occasionally funny, that these would-be wrestlers are Hebrew speakers. What drags down the movie more than the mindless jokes are the serious moments, when the directors try to put across the message that fat people are victims of a society that celebrates thinness. Sure, we are all beautiful as we are and we have to embrace our inner fat person and all that, but these characters are really very heavy. They are not the usual movie fat people who are really no heavier than average, but truly obese men (who weigh over 150 kilos) and let it all hang out in their little outfits. I'm not saying that it's OK to laugh at them or ruin their self esteem, but is it really a conspiracy of thin doctors who say that being this heavy leads to serious health problems, or just a simple fact? Do the obese really need to be the next victims in search of self-actualization? And is it wise for a silly comedy to get as preachy as this one does? If seeing the posters of the Israeli sumo wrestlers all over the country hasn't made you run out to see this film already, wait till it plays on TV. That's the medium it was inspired by and to which it is best suited.