DVD Review: ‘Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead’


FAT, SICK, AND NEARLY DEAD, a documentary about what happens when a rich guy discovers he’s gone to the buffet way too often and put his life at risk, came out in 2010 and I totally missed it. In 2010, I also missed PASSION PLAY, starring Bill Murray and Megan Fox so, of the two, I’d be more inclined to catch up on that one. But there was something about this documentary that seemed like an offbeat take on Morgan Spurlock’s SUPER SIZE ME that I couldn’t resist. This is a person who has the means to indulge in a quest. The question is whether or not you should come along.

In Spurlock’s now legendary doc, he only ate from the McDonald’s menu for 30 days and barely made it. In this doc, Joe Cross goes on a 60-day fast which has him only drinking green juices. As the documentary progresses, we discover that he is one hundred pounds overweight and is prone to an all-body skin rash due to his lifelong history of unhealthy eating. In his case, Cross decides one extreme deserves another. To give this extreme diet a sense of adventure, he drives his SUV across America, cranks out his meals from his fancy juicer out of the back of his SUV and embarks on a trek across America awkwardly approaching strangers and stumbling through attempts to ignite conversations about healthy eating. At one point, as he’s talking to a young man in New York City, he admits to not being an actor or professional spokesman. The young man nods and says, “I hear ya.” This is actually funny and you have to hand it to Cross for diving into the fray. What saves it for him is perseverance and luck.

We appreciate that Joe Cross is a decent sort of guy, just a good ole Australian, who let his belly get out of control. He seems to imply that it was bad American values that had crept into Aussie life. But it’s also part of the way the culture at large, particularly Western culture, chooses to do business. Food is used to create the illusion of prosperity and goodwill at countless office functions but always in the most soulless and uncreative way. If only all those platters of symbolic peace offerings were made up of truly healthy food, then Cross would not have gotten a good hundred pounds overweight. He ate in extreme fashion and his plan to save his health is to go to another extreme with a 60-day juice binge. “That’s crazy,” says one of the strangers caught in the lens of his documentary. And so it is: a bit crazed, a bit unfocused at first. Cross seems like a disconnected king getting to know his subjects on some wild road trip caper.

The interviews are sometimes odd, sometimes silly but they’re entertaining. And then Cross’s point-and-shoot-see-what-happens process starts to pay off. The recurring response he gets from average overweight Americans is that “you only live once, so you may as well enjoy yourself.” That attitude is expressed most poignantly by a blue collar man in a diner who thinks he has Cross outwitted. He says, “So, let’s say you did eat healthy. What would you do with another five or ten years?” Cross nods to the man’s son and says, “That’s more time for you to be with your family, mate.” The man stares back and it hits him. Whatever this documentary was about before, that moment felt real and worth it.

Midway through, Cross’s doc is hit with its biggest payoff as Cross gets to know a man very similar to him although of meager means. He’s a truck driver that he chatted with for a bit and invited to try some of his green juice. The trucker has the very same rare skin condition as Cross and similar girth. Cross is genuinely moved and wishes the man the very best. Ultimately, Cross reaches his goal and is down to a weight that falls within the norm. He’s still in contact with his doctors. He’s going to be okay. Then the trucker calls him and asks for help. The rest of the doc is how Cross helps his new friend regain his health. Yes, Cross is a businessman. He does have a juicer he’d like to sell you. But, in the end, Cross does a great service to everyone by focusing on the very real fact that we don’t eat nearly as well as our bodies would like us to. The average American diet is mostly processed junk and only a marginal intake of veggies. So, take from this doc what works for you. Take sensible and gentle steps. For example, replace a latte with a green juice the next time you crave caffeine. Joe Cross will be happy for you too.

By the way, this is the Joe Cross green juice recipe: Juice 6 leaves of kale, 1 cucumber, 4 stalks of celery, 3 apples cut in half, a small piece of ginger and 1/2 lemon. The tasty cocktail will double most people’s daily intake of healthy veggies. Not something you really want to go nuts over but well worth incorporating into your schedule in a sensible manner.

All in all, this is a subject that deserves careful consideration. We’re talking about your health and your life. Joe Cross reached the danger point and found his way out. There are numerous others out there dealing with similar struggles. It is to Joe’s credit that he’s addressed the issue in a way that has gotten people’s attention. Dr. Oz, everyone’s favorite TV doctor, supports Joe’s 3-day juice cleanse. However, it’s up to you to act responsibly and find the right fit. Check out Joe’s website here.

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Filed under Documentaries, Filmmaking, Food, Health

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