In Heather Fink’s delightful and poignant short film The Focus Group author and comedian Sara Benincasa, who also wrote the script, offers an astute commentary on the societal pressures surrounding body image. Sara’s (played by Benincasa) life is in a bit of a rut. Fired from her job, depressed, single, and a little overweight, the food blogger cannot seem to find her way out of the funk. Taking the advice of her friend Ann (Ann Carr), Sara seeks out the help of a boutique personal services agency. One that promises to fix her life in six months if she is willing to hear criticism about herself by experts whose lifestyle she wants to attain.
Emphasizing the unhealthy relationship that society has with perpetuating the stereotype that thinness equals happiness, The Focus Group is a sharp and hilarious take on the image obsessed state of the world. One where people are more concerned with exuding a perceived personal brand in the public sphere than making their mark based on their actual achievements. Benincasa is sensational in the lead, conveying an everywoman type of sincerity to the role. Her script is equally biting in both commentary and wit. It will be hard not to think of tramp stamps and the Dave Matthews Band in unison again after this film.
More importantly, Benincasa’s script also serves as a wake-up call of sorts; one that cautions against striving for false ideals. She shows that happiness and success is achieved by believing in one’s own abilities, not from changing to meet the unhealthy standards that others try and impose on you.
The Focus Group
Director: Heather Fink / USA/ 2016/ 9 minutes
Starring: Sara Benincasa, Ann Carr, Seena Jon, James Coker, Soojeong Son, Jerah Milligan, Tigist Selam, and Walter Replogle