Winkingly cribbing its title from those thinly veiled click-bait ads you normally make fun of, How To Lose Weight in 4 Easy Steps is a pretty standard tale. Only, it’s done with an inventiveness that actually makes the classic ‘man is sad because he got dumped’ plot feel fresh, and even uplifting.
It’s done with a spot-on balance of mildly cruel comic timing with genuine pathos that really illustrate how much the film making form can do with 5 minutes and the most basic of narratives. Writer Aaron Bleyaert and director Ben Berman cut through cliches with sadistic glee, making funny and affecting work out of a well worn storyline that would normally motivate you to roll your eyes.
Starting out with what seems like a straight faced instructional video, the rhythmic editing and generic dance music of steps 1-2 (NO BEER, PORTION CONTROL) is interrupted by the narrator Christopher (Beck Bennett, of SNL fame)’s personal story. A 30-something retail worker, revealing his real motivation as to why he’s losing weight – he got dumped. So he follows the classic advice to ‘hit the gym’, suppressing his feelings until they occasionally intrude in typical examples of male bitterness and insecurity.
As with any case of this story there’s a risk of these feelings becoming misogynistic and overly bitter, but Bleyaert, Berman and Bennett walk the line well. They avoid this trap by making a lot of the humour come from Bennett’s character’s journey to self improvement being continually undercut by his insecurity and denial. It also helps that Bennett is an expert at playing characters who are just slightly in over their heads, and does well to sell the surprisingly uplifting end.
It’s something you’ve seen before, but just from a different, really funny angle – and there’s a great cameo from Conan O’Brien to round it all out.
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DIRECTOR: Ben Berman
WRITER: Aaron Bleyaert
CAST: Beck Bennett, Britt Lower, Jessy Hodges
PRODUCERS: Jonathan Roig, Joanie Arbogast, and Pat Stone
DoPs: Sing Howe Yam and Dan Adlerstein
EDITOR: Hank Friedmann
SYNOPSIS: Losing weight and getting fit has never been easier! Shed those unwanted pounds with these simple tricks your gym doesn’t want you to know about. You won’t believe what happens next!