FATSO —-a quarter century before The Whale, this oddball 1980 item tackled the private anguish of the food-addicted (or whichever designation you may apply) and is the only movie written & directed by the formidable Anne Bancroft, who also co-stars. As an actress, she was gutsy and intense, often memorable, though she binges here, chewing her own ethnic roots— Italian-American, via the Bronx—with such vigor it’s hard to tell if it’s authentic or a put-on. Her writing and direction likewise tip the scales between highs and lows; apart from kudos to her fellow cast members, critics disparaged her erratic CEO skills. At the box-office, the take of $8,700,000 was 81st on the year’s menu.

‘Stout’/’portly’/’stocky’ bachelor shop owner ‘Dominic DiNapoli’ (Dom DeLuise) lives with younger brother ‘Frankie’ (Ron Carey, excellent); pushy older sister ‘Antoinette’ (Bancroft) is in the same building. After an obese cousin dies at 39, Dom’s spurred to diet, his urge to emerge boosted by a budding romance with sweet antique dealer ‘Lydia Bollowenski’ (Candice Azzara) down the block. Fate playing its fickle finger, food-mad Dom falls for a girl who’s anorexic.

Like the treat-tormented hero, the treatment veers between burps of laughter and stray aromas of warm-baked sentiment, the latter bumping against episodes of gaseous heartburn when over-indulgence piles the platter. At times it’s almost “Marty with Meatballs”; Dom tasked to weep more than Niagara Falls watching Titanic at a funeral. The actors, who are very good, battle the tonal bada-bing as the story tries to corral obesity and addiction, family and singlehood, longing and self-acceptance.

Fortunately, Bancroft’s steering (and overplaying) are salvaged by the good work from DeLuise, chirpy comic Carey and dewy-eyed delight Azzara. Favored second-banana DeLuise had played one lead, a year earlier, in the decent cop comedy Hot Stuff, which he also directed. He showed chops playing it straight in that one, and likewise nicely handles the dramatic portions in this pot luck. Dependably sharp Carey has a warm brotherly rapport with him, and girl-to-diet-for Azzara deserved to be a bigger star (she’s one of the brighter elements in The World’s Greatest Lover).

With Richard Karen and Paul Zegler, both inspired to drop considerable poundage after working on the film. 93 minutes.





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