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Review: To The Bone (Sundance) starring Lily Collins & Keanu Reeves

To The Bone (Sundance) starring Lily Collins & Keanu Reeves
07.12.2017
5 10
TO THE BONE was originally reviewed as part of our Sundance 2017 coverage.

PLOT: A twenty year old anorexic (Lily Collins) agrees to a last-ditch effort to recover her health, with her becoming an in-patient at an institution run by an unconventional doctor (Keanu Reeves).

REVIEW: We see plenty of films about recovery from drug addiction and mental health, but one of the most common, and dangerous disorders, anorexia, is rarely given any kind of big screen treatment. As such, writer-director Marti Noxon, who has a long history on TV where she helped establish "Buffy, The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" as TV classics that were ahead of their time, has a unique opportunity to expose an illness that's too often shrugged off.

Part of the reason anorexia is so rarely discussed may be the way we, as a culture, still idealize thinness, especially in Hollywood. As such, lead Lily Collins, probably has a unique insight into the disorder. Her performance is a great one and the best thing she's done to date, but too bad this well-intentioned film has the feeling of an "after school special' rather than the harrowing tale it could have been.

In that way, TO THE BONE is a let-down, but a somewhat excusable one as Noxon’s goal is clearly to make this as accessible and informative as possible, and sure enough, with Netflix picking it up, it’ll probably reach that broad audience. Collins’s performance does indeed make it a worthy watch, with her believable as the smart-mouthed twenty-year old, reeling from her illness, which has left her skeletal.

Her story isn’t especially unique, with her the product of a broken home, although it's made clear family issues are not at the root of her sickness. Her step-mom (Carrie Preston) is flaky, but not cruel, while her half-sister (Liana Liberato) is her rock. It’s typical melodrama, although at least Noxon does give her character some shading by having her formerly run a tumblr that somewhat fetishized her illness, something which had devastating consequences.

The movie only really starts to go off the rails once she becomes an in-patient, when a tacked-on romance between her and a dancer, Alex Sharpp, becomes too quirky and YA-ish. The movie goes from being GIRL, INTERRUPTED to THE FAULT IN THEIR STARS and back again, something which is jarring. Sharpp’s performance also grates, with him so talkative and faux quirky he doesn’t seem authentic.

As for Keanu Reeves, his contribution is effective, but his role is little more than a cameo. His first scene, where he lays some harsh truths on Collins feels like he’s running down a WebMD article, but it also gives some insight into how people with anorexia suffer. Collins herself looks skeletal throughout, to the extent I hope it’s clever angles and make-up, as if she really lost the weight, it’s dangerous.

TO THE BONE is for sure a movie I hoped I would like, as a good, gritty story about anorexia is needed, although this isn’t that film. Even still, Collins’s performance is too good to overlook, and the younger audience this is directed at will no doubt get a lot out of it.

Source: JoBlo.com

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