"Muffin Top: A Love Story" is the story of Suzanne (Cathryn Michon) a Women's Studies Pop Culture professor at Malibu University, who studies images of women in the media for a living, and ...
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"Muffin Top: A Love Story" is the story of Suzanne (Cathryn Michon) a Women's Studies Pop Culture professor at Malibu University, who studies images of women in the media for a living, and yet is made insecure by the constant parade of female perfection that is our airbrushed culture. She has been going through IVF treatments to get pregnant by her network executive husband (Diedrich Bader), but discovers on her birthday, that her husband has knocked up his younger, skinnier, co-worker (Haylie Duff) and wants a divorce. Happy Birthday! She goes on to find a more authentic version of who she really is, despite the delights of being suddenly single in Los Angeles, where low self-esteem for women is their number one export to the world. Written by
A story that was seemingly written with the confidence level of its self-conscious main character
Muffin Top: A Love Story would be such a personal film, rich with commentary and talking points about contemporary feminism and women's issues if it wasn't so immature and juvenile. In the course of two weeks, I have watched both Muffin Top: A Love Story and Sex Ed, a film starring Haley Joel Osment as a sexual education teacher for middle school students, films with equal opportunity to provide strong themes and ideas on modern issues but cop out and go for the easy joke, which brings down both films' impacts significantly. Muffin Top, much like Sex Ed, is never boring, provides for some laughs, but consistently sacrifices the bigger issues it could be proposing thanks to the perpetuation of dirty-minded screen writing.
Co-writer, directress, and producer Cathryn Michon plays Suzanne, a gorgeous but self-conscious middle-aged woman, working as a professor of women's studies at Malibu University and living life married to the cold and sociopathic Michael (Diedrich Bader), who hits her with the seven-letter d-word out of nowhere one day. Suzanne, an already fragile soul, is left feeling helpless and hideous, confiding in her best friend and booking agent Kim (Melissa Peterman) for a place to live and moral support. Suzanne, despite condemning and attempting to rise above the "airbrush" culture of society still falls prey to insecurities directly related to her weight and appearance, now is left alone and insecure in Los Angeles, desperately in need for some sort of companionship. She finds momentary solace in the local barista (Michael Hawley), a young and attractive spirit and a popular speaker on feminist theory and studies (David Arquette), both of whom she enjoys being around, but cannot seem to overcome the downtrodden spirits her stomach (or "muffin top") makes her feel.
Muffin Top is likely not a far-fetched story for middle aged women, or even young women as well, when taken in its basic form. The film deals with body issues, common insecurities, and the forcing one does to themselves to get back in the saddle after a self-esteem- corrupting event takes place. There's not a doubt in mind that women who have seen themselves there will connect deeply with that aspect of the film. The sad thing is, that part is only an aspect and not the prime focus, with gross-out gags, cartoonish moments where Suzanne's "muffin top" starts talking to her or when she hires an overweight man who tries to whisper to her fat, and scenes desperately trying to loosen the film's potential grip on true-to- life drama take center-stage. The repetitiveness of Muffin Top comes in when you have several scenes catering to banal humor involving the humiliation of Michon's character, where we unevenly go from laughing at her to having to sympathize with her, almost as if we're going through the cycle of what it's like to be a self-loathing, schoolyard bully.
I feel like I'm writing the exact same review as I did for Sex Ed, but the same problems persist and beg justifications. Did Michon, like Sex Ed screenwriter Bill Kennedy, not have enough confidence the audience would get the dramatic undertones of the film? Did they fear the film may be too contemplative or thoughtful and that the only way to combat potential themes and social commentaries was to obscure them by including juvenile humor? It's frustrating to see a film with such a superb concept be diluted by blatant immaturity.
Aside from that glaring misstep, and a few other situational occurrences like Suzanne's potential book deal that just seem like the result of Michon running out of narrative ideas in terms of approach, Muffin Top has redeeming qualities. For one, Michon, who has already thrown herself in all the main positions of the film, is an incredible force of kinetic energy on film, launching her character in a barrage of different setups and bearing enough energy to make them all at least watchable. Michon clearly treats her pet project with a lot of respect and caters to it with a great sense of acting urgency, never missing a beat as a performer and showing off what she is made of, even if the particular scene has an overwhelming dose of silly humor.
Muffin Top: A Love Story will likely resonate with those who are in, or have seen, similar circumstances as Suzanne, and the same people will likely forgive the film's use of sight gags being that its lead actress is such a force. My only note is that it's possible to enjoy certain aspects of this film even if others run the route of being throwaway attempts at making sure ones project doesn't become too thematically heavy.
Starring: Cathryn Michon, David Arquette, Diedrich Bader, Melissa Peterman, Marcia Wallace, Michael Bawley, and Haylie Duff. Directed by: Cathryn Michon.
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