It might be a case of Joe who? in his native Australia but Joe Cross (pictured) is gaining a weighty profile in the US thanks to his documentary Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead.
The saga of his transformation from obese to normal during a 60-day road trip across the US has scored mostly favourable reviews and lots of publicity since it opened in New York's Quad Cinema on April 1, with bookings to follow in dozens of cities.
A kind of Super Size Me in reverse, the doco portrays Cross initially as a self-made man with a giant health problem. Aged 40, the Sydney-based financier and entrepreneur who left school at 17 weighed 140 kg, was suffering from chronic autoimmune disorder and had taken prescription medication including a powerful steroid for eight years.
“I was literally fat, sick and nearly dead,” he declared on the Huffington Post website, noting that he found it hard to do normal things like carry a shopping bag, hold a baby, and walk long distances.
His solution: To drink only natural foods turned into juice while he filmed his journey across the US. Along the way, he met a large number of Ordinary Joes, many of whom were junk food addicts including Phil Staples, a morbidly obese truck driver whom Cross took under his wing.
At the end, Cross had shed 45 kg and the effects of the autoimmune disease had lessened while Staples had begun his own journey to get well.
Ever the businessman, Cross formed Reboot Media, a health and lifestyle brand that has marketing partnerships with purveyors of juices and fresh fruit and fresh vegetables. Reboot Media produced the docu and is distributing it in the US.
While Variety panned the film as a “glorified infomercial,” other critics have been more complimentary.
The New York Times declared, “In a television culture that can at times feel like one vast waistline, this good-natured documentary adds little to the conversation. But its insistence that self-help is the best help allows Mr. Cross — now medication free and messianic — to lay responsibility on ourselves. Fat, Sick may be no great shakes as a movie, but as an ad for Mr. Cross's wellness program its now-healthy heart is in the right place.”
The Hollywood Reporter said, “While at first the film is largely informational, offering a plethora of facts and statistics accompanied by whimsical animated interludes, it essentially becomes an inspirational tale of how Cross inspires his disciple to clean up his act. By the conclusion, ample visual evidence is provided of both men's dramatic physical and emotional transformations.”
Commented The Film Journal: “Audiences watching the film may find themselves stowing the popcorn and soda under their seats and heading to the juice bar afterwards. Wheat grass and kale shake, anyone? The enthusiasts in this film swear the taste grows on you.”
There's no Australian cinema release date but I expect the doco will be released here on DVD.