Big is Beautiful is being marketed as “a moving film on friendship, in the same vein as 35-Something, Bridesmaids and Sex in the City…with a few extra pounds”. Although the sassy and sensual aspects of Sex in the City are clearly influenced the film, the message of self-acceptance feels more akin to Calendar Girls than Bridesmaids. Similar to many of the characters within the film, Big is Beautiful is not shy about what it wants to achieve. It is a comedy that wants to both inspire and entertain its audience.
Charlotte de Turckheim’s film revolves around Nina (Lola Dewaere), a slightly overweight accountant who works at her husband Gaspard’s (Grégory Fitoussi) fashion company. Like many women Nina has always struggled with her weight, she has trouble finding clothes that fit in a world that only seems to cater to size 6 and under. Even Nina’s own mother is constantly harassing her to be more like Nina’s slim best friend Natasha (Pauline Lefèvre). After being humiliated at work when her skirt rips in front of important clients, Gaspard surprises Nina with a month-long slimming down treatment at the Bride-les-Bains spa.
A yearly destination for many looking to shed a few pounds, the spa is like a high end resort for the overweight. Guests can exercise, get nutritional advice, shop, and most importantly feel comfortable in an environment that does not judge them on their appearance. It is here where Nina meets Sophie (Pedro Almodóvar regular Victoria Abril), a lawyer with a vivacious sexual appetite, and Emilie (Catherine Hosmalin), a married mother of two whose weight is causing problems in her love life. Over the course of a month the women will learn a lot about life, love, friendship, and most importantly themselves.
If the title of the film did not already tip you off, Big is Beautiful is all about reinforcing the notion of being the best possible version of yourself. There is even a scene in which a doctor blatantly tells Nina that she should lose weight for her and not for anyone else. Turckheim does a good job of promoting self-acceptance by filling the film with various body types. This allows Turckheim to show overweight people in a positive and normal light, instead of being the butt of the joke like in most comedies. This is not to say that the film does not have its share of cheap laughs.
Many of the gags in the film, including characters having problems with the Jacuzzi, strive to be as daring as Bridesmaids but sorely miss the mark. This is mainly due to Big is Beautiful hitting all the conventional beats you would expect in this genre. Each character’s lists of dilemmas are written in such a way that there is very little doubt about their outcome. For example, Nina is an accountant whose real passion is clothing design and Emilie’s weight has caused her to be in a sexless marriage for five years. Even those who have never watched Sex in the City will know how the arc between Sophie, the “Samantha” of the group, and her much younger fling Yussuf (Raphaël Lenget) will turn out.
Turckheim’s film also suffers from having too many subplots that either go nowhere or offer very little to the film overall. Just when it looks like the Emilie/Jean Paul storyline might build to something, it is dropped completely. The most notable offender though is the arc involving Roxanne (Julia Piaton), a young hairdresser, and Thomas (Martin Daquin), the boy she is chaperoning at the spa. Aside from being very predictable, their subplot never seems to fit with the overall flow of the film.
While Big is Beautiful may be predictable from both a story and execution standpoint, the film is not without its charms. The performances by the three leads are solid, especially in regards to the works of Lola Dewaere and Victoria Abril. Plus there is something inherently joyful in watching characters like Gaspard get their comeuppance. Big is Beautiful is a film that will satisfy those looking to have a fun girls night out. While not a deep film by any means, it achieves its goal of being both entertaining and inspirational.
Big is Beautiful is screening on Thursday, April 11th at 6:30 pm at The Royal (608 College Street).
Tickets can be purchased at the Cinéfranco website or at the theatre.