Notes: International Rainbow Pictures
Martine: Nelly Alard
Helaine: Lisa Richards (from Dark Shadows)
Kate: Mary Crosby (she shot J.R.)
Mother: Frances Bergen
Sophie: Gwen Welles
Sadie: Marlena Giovi
Nancy: Elizabeth Kemp
With Toni Basil

Written and Directed: Henry Jaglom

Summary: Helaine is celebrating her 40th birthday by having a party at her home. Simultaneously, her friend Sadie, a talent agent, is turning 50 and her friend Kate, apparently happily married and inspiring of jealousy, is turning 30. Helaine's husband promises by phone to come later, but turns out to be having an affair and will not arrive. Sophie, another friend, is vicious, jealous, and destructive. Sadie's daughter Jennifer has an eating disorder. Helaine's sister Nancy does also. The sisters' mother stops by and is invited to stay: she seems to be the only mentally healthy woman regaring food, but our opinion of her is modified when she advises Helaine to overlook her husband's affair as she and her generation used to do. Helaine's French houseguest, Martine, is filming Californian women's attitudes about food and it is revealed that she is motivated by an eating disorder in her own past.

The power of this film is in listening to the women speak to Martine's camera about food. "I'm having a delicious time." "Nothing's ready yet but can I get you something?" (Helaine). "It's the safest sex you can have -- eating" (Jennifer). "It's like eating their ideals." "It's eating at me" (Sophie).

"He really likes you." "He sneaks me food." "If they feed you they like you."

"I'm no longer involved with food." "I was the apple of my father's eye." "I wear clothes to conceal it" (Nancy). "Sweetness was something I was addicted to because I didn't have that in my life." "You're making me eat; you're making me eat. You're making me sick" (Helaine to Sophie).

Food is compared to an abusive lover. These women feel themselves to be "at the mercy of food" as opposed to "normal people." Sex used to be the taboo subject, but now it's food.

Commentary: Food sweeps every aspect of this nation's culture. Whether it is advertising for the food itself, professional sports leagues, restaurants, hotels, even video games, the focus of Americans is on food. The movie Eating brings a different aspect of food to the forefront: women obsessing over it.

Along with all the food advertisements on television are the weight-loss programs promising perfect bodies if you try their product. The ice cream shop is strategically placed next to the gyms to entice those just having finished a workout and feeling they deserve a "reward." This whole cycle of eating, wanting to lose weight, and envying the bodies of people on television is what keeps the money flowing to the corporations behind each one of these enterprises.

But more than making me aware of this nasty industry targeted at women, watching the movie Eating brought my attention to the little things that women think and say on a regular basis. We all catch ourselves staring at other women, whether gazing with envy or glaring with jealousy. Women constantly want to be tall if they are short, short if they are tall, have smaller breasts if they are big, and have bigger ones if they are small. This film focuses on women's dissatisfactions with themselves and how these cases of low self-esteem become intricately interwoven with attitudes about food, and the things women say naively unaware of the implications.

Gossip and glares fill this movie and show how much women really do obsess. Passing a piece of cake around and no woman wanting it is a tragic example that women cannot be comfortable enough around each other to enjoy good food. This is because everyone in the group has competition engraved into their heads by society to be skinnier than everyone else. Women often bring their own salad dressings or diet foods everywhere they go to be prepared for the torturous temptation of a real, nourishing meal put in front of them.

Excuses then become a major part of eating after women constantly remind themselves that foods with fat and carbohydrates are bad. It could be the birthday of a particular woman who says she can eat anything she wants on her special day, or because her relationship with her boyfriend didn't work out. But these are special justifications for what is a basic human function: eating.

Of course there are exceptions to this kind of behavior, and we all like to think we are one of the exceptions, but inside every woman lies some kind of unhappiness with her body. The movie Eating shows all the little thoughts we think of, but mostly it is so overpowering and annoying that it made me think I should watch what I say and complain about because no one likes to hear griping on a regualr basis. This film could possibly have been made for the women of the world to realize how annoying we are to men with the obsessions of our bodies. On the other hand, it could have been made to show the men that we obsess over food and our bodies because of them. So maybe one day a happy medium will be met where no one gives a damn about flat stomachs, firm butts, or even big breasts, and all the money spent on fat-free foods, commercials for these foods, and gym memberships will be spent to feed some of the starving countries who truly need the food.

For further discussion, see the following brief essays:

"Evil Food"
Alison Jameson

"Sex, Food, and Sex with Food"
David Doran

"Food is my Booty Call"
David Doran

"Animal Cookies: A Child's Substitute for Friends"
Kristi Folsom

Food Films
Food Frontpage