Chick Flick Picks: Fed Up and Neighbors
By this point, we all know that the U.S. is in the middle of a food crisis. Between detoxes, juicing, going gluten-free and elimination diets, it seems like many are trying to gain some modicum of control over what’s known as the Standard American Diet (fittingly abbreviated as SAD). But is that control just an illusion? “Fed Up”, the new documentary from director Stephanie Soechtig and producers Katie Couric (who also narrates) and Laurie David, aims to expose the real reason we’ve found ourselves—and especially our children—in such a SAD state of affairs.
Through interviews with such respected figures as former President Bill Clinton and food expert Michael Pollan, “Fed Up” outlines how the government and food industry have systematically ignored medical research for more than three decades and instead misdirected our national obesity epidemic away from its true demon—sugar. The documentary walks us through the creation of the low-fat and low-calorie diet fads and the true realities of processed foods and how they erode our health over time. Much of the focus here is on childhood obesity and to that end follows several obese children and their families as they struggle to fight a system clearly stacked against them. How can it not be when the government allows school districts to classify pizza as a vegetable (owing to the small amount of tomato paste in the sauce)?
Unfortunately, like other finger-pointing documentaries before it, “Fed Up” ultimately is more about exposing the problem than it is in crafting solutions. Its culmination is a call for viewers to attempt a 10-day sugar detox, which is a noble first step in an ultramarathon-length journey, but I can see how that conclusion would also lead some of its audience to conclude that the problem is so pervasive and so insurmountable that there would be no point in changing their ways. While I found its content inspiring and have since become a label-reading addict at the grocery store, I can see why others might leave the theater and still be reaching for the cookie jar.
“Fed Up” opens today at the Violet Crown Cinema and the Regal Arbor.
After the hard truths of “Fed Up,” you’ve earned your (sugar-free) dessert. While “Neighbors” doesn’t trade in hard truths, I’m hard-pressed to come up with another movie—let alone a comedy—that so effectively portrays the tension (and ultimately the reluctant acceptance) of realizing that your early 30s are light years away from your early 20s.
In “Neighbors,” Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne play a married couple in their 30s who have recently hit some big milestones in the game of life by having their first child and buying their first home. In the middle of adjusting to their new, more grown-up lives, the house next door is sold to a fraternity, led by Zac Efron’s character. From that point on, Rogen and Byrne’s characters vacillate between outraged disgust at the rowdy revelers next door and desperately trying to fit in with them as they cling to the last vestiges of their old responsibility-free lives.
The comedy is consistently hilarious throughout “Neighbors,” and while the action onscreen often focuses more on the hijinks of one-upsmanship between the fraternity and their neighbors, it was the more authentic conflict of a young couple accepting the realities of adulthood that really won me over. Director Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “The Five-Year Engagement” and the writer of both recent Muppet movies) continues his proven track record of skillfully blending raunchy comedy with realistic sentiment, but like his other efforts, “Neighbors” sometimes feels like it could’ve benefitted from a bit more time in the editing room (full disclosure: I saw a work-in-progress screening at SXSW, so the movie may have been cut more since that time).
Whether you, like me, have found yourself chafing a bit at this whole thirtysomething thing or if you just like seeing Zac Efron without his shirt on (no judgment here), “Neighbors” belongs on your must-see list.
“Neighbors” is in wide release in Austin.
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