** (out of 5)
April 7, 2006
Mo’Nique as JAZMIN BILTMORE
Jimmy Jean-Louis as TUNDE
Godfrey as AKIBO
Kendra C. Johnson as STACEY
Joyful Drake as MIA
Eric Roberts as ROBERT MEYER
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Directed by: Nnegest Likké
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Before going into the story of “Phat Girlz,” let me explain my rating system. Trust me, it will help take you through the journey of this film.
Every movie I go to see starts off with three out of five stars. That represents your basic movie that reaches its market and accomplishes what it sets out to do. Everything that happens after the film stars can affect that rating.
Some movies wow me from the get-go, and the star rating goes up. Others take a hit early on and recover throughout. Some take the hit and never recover.
“Phat Girlz” had a rocky start and relied too much on Mo’Nique’s antics than on plot. The best scenes come when she cuts loose, mainly when she gets in insult contests with other characters. These scenes are not terribly relevant to the plot, but they did make me laugh. These moments helped me warm up to the film, but at least through half of it, the movie maintained its three-star status.
However, as the film dragged on, I started to lose interest. About half-way through, Mo’Niques’s character starts acting like a nut case for no other reason than providing some conflict to further the shaky story. Eventually the movie seems to end, only it took the same amount of time as “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.” It just kept going and going and going.
There are about four different endings to the film, and by the time the last one plays out, I was exhausted. If first-time director Nnegest Likké would have cut down the ending in the editing room, the film may have retained some love from me.
The movie tells the story of Jazmin Biltmore (Mo’Nique), a large lady who has been heavy all her life. Over the years she learned to deal with the teasing by taking an attitude. Unfortunately, that’s never helped her get a man, and while she dresses with style, she is still alone.
Jazmin wins a trip to Palm Springs with her skinny cousin Mia (Joyful Drake) and plump friend Stacey (Kendra C. Johnson). While they are at the pool, they meet three Nigerian doctors who are attracted to the “thick madam” look. For the first time, this leaves Mia in the dust with Jazmin and Stacey getting the men.
Jazmin gets sucked into a whirlwind romance with one of the doctors, but eventually her insecurities torpedo the relationship. Ultimately, she has to overcome her own self image problems before she can become accustomed to being admired by anyone.
Made for a very minimal budget, “Phat Girlz” should see some success. Mo’Nique has a solid following, and she does pull off some empathy in her big-screen debut as a leading lady. The image quality is a little rough because the filmmaker chose hi-def rather than actual film, and that might hurt it in the short run. Still, aside from the poor video image, the film manages to look pretty good for a million dollar film.
There are some positive and uplifting aspects to this film. I’ve known several heavy women in my life, and I know that often it is their own self image that causes them to hate their bodies. Even non-heavy women have serious self image problems. There’s a level of truth in the fact that even if women are desired by men, they will still look at themselves as imperfect.
In this respect, “Phat Girlz” is ideal viewing for any woman who is unhappy with her body – and I would imagine that would be all of them. It also takes some well deserved jabs at the fashion industry, which drives most of the twiggy model look. I still marvel at the fact that an industry run by women and gay men have such an influence on the popular perception of female sexuality.