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Directed by Samantha Aldana.
Written by Kelly Murtagh, Bryce Parsons-Twesten.
Starring Kelly Murtagh, Bobby Gilchrist, Jamie Neumann, Erika Ashley, Gralen Bryant Banks, Marco Dapper, Craig Leydecker, Zardis Nichols, Ernest Wells, Jo-Ann Robinson, Sherri Eakin, Deneen Tyler, Casandra Corrales, Tenea Intriago
Ivy (writer Kelly Murtagh) is the lead singer in a blues band and longs to make it big in the industry. But holding her back is her eating disorder and severe body dysmorphia. On the brink of achieving her dreams, Ivy seems to self-sabotage this success at every turn as her body begins to betray her.
I want to be sensitive about this topic as I know quite a few people who have been affected by eating disorders. I understand it is a debilitating disorder that has no easy answers or cures. That said, SHAPELESS was a struggle for me to watch mainly because it is less of a story and more of a case study with no real beginning, middle or end. Just as the title suggests, SHAPELESS is more of an amorphous snippet of a deeply flawed life. Stuff happens between the time we meet Ivy who binges and purges massive amounts of food on a daily basis and the end where she seems to give into her urges once again, but there is barely any character development in that time. Instead, she follow Ivy as she acts horribly to her friends, walls herself in, refuses to get help, and ultimately seals her fate.
I feel that this story hit so close to home for both director and writer that they wanted to present a real picture of the horror someone with an eating disorder goes through. In doing so, they forgot to give it an actual narrative. In a lot of ways, this film reminds me of SWALLOW, another story about an eating disorder released last year, about a woman who swallows things that are harmful to her due to deep seeded problems in her life. In SHAPELESS, we are never even given any backstory as to why Ivy is this way. All we know is how Ivy is now. In attempting to provide a respectful look at this disorder, the story was lost in the process.
SHAPELESS is also overly long. A good half hour to an hour could be carved off and it would have made for a more succinct and focused story. So much of this film simply lingers on scenes of Ivy’s face, Ivy biting her cuticles, Ivy staring at herself in the mirror, Ivy looking at something off screen. I appreciated a lot of the cinematography. Much of this film is either right up in Ivy’s face or showing her through blue and red filtered prism lenses. This reflects how critical Ivy is of her body and the distorted imagery is an interesting way to highlight the dysmorphia going on. Still, repeated uses of these techniques feel as if the film is padding for time and providing more glitz than substantial story.
The horrifying mutations Ivy sees on her body are, I guess, what makes people think this is a horror film. These images are quite gruesome and do their job of giving off an icky feel. Still, I feel this film barely qualifies as horror and feels more like an infomercial teaching us about this disorder than a story about it. The imagery is quite striking. The performances are strong, even though they feel directionless. Eating disorders are horrifyingly damaging to those afflicted with it and those who love them. But in attempting to be distanced, fair, and truthful about the horrors of the disease and how hard it is to overcome it, those behind and in front of the camera forgot to make a story out of it, unfortunately.