Review by Mark Schwab
Ah, Los Angeles. The desert that people turn into their dreams. L.A. is an amazing place teaming with creativity and talent yet also has a desperate and lethal dark side that can bite you in half. It is the sort-of grey zone between the two where FUNNY FAT GUY treads. It was a pleasant surprise how well this film manages considering, on paper anyway, the standard plot line of a low-rent comic flailing in his quest to make the big time.
Sandy Danto is the title character a.k.a. Charlie McStean, a very desperate stand up comic who practices his trade in front of bored audiences of maybe 5 or 6 people on weeknights if he's lucky. He's broke, a total slob, a bad drunk and will vacuum up any narcotics that come his way. Yes, Charlie has spent too many years trying to "make the big time" in L.A. and hitting brick walls, so when we begin our story, he's down to his last few crumbs of effort and self-respect. And yet...I liked this guy. Danto really embodies the burned-out artist - he's not totally untalented (and even shows some good comic bits here and there)...he's just been beaten down so many times that he doesn't want to pick himself up anymore yet doesn't know what else he could be doing instead.
In fact, I liked all of the characters in FUNNY FAT GUY. Shelly Dennis is terrific as Anna the bar maid at the crummy comedy club who sees a flicker of soul embers left in Charlie and decides to try her best to bring back the flame. Trevor Lee Georgeson is spot-on as Charlie's "friend" Taylor, an actor who has "made it" to a certain extent yet likes to have that one loser friend to tag along just so his own light looks a little brighter. It's a great portrayal of Hollywood self-absorption.
Director Ryan Penington and Screenwriter Nick Snowden do a fine job of letting the script and the actors work within each scene without resorting to film school trickery and over the top situations. They know that with a solid script and a great cast, just getting out of the way is one of the smartest things you can do and Penington and Snowden were wise enough to know they have both here in FUNNY FAT GUY. Even the look of the film works perfectly with this material - showing a grimy Los Angeles and giving the whole thing a late 1970's feel but in the best way when American movies emphasized characters and mood. One could argue the ending of the film takes the easy way out but it doesn't gloss over the grim authenticity of how one character describes Hollywood as "the only place where you can die from hope." Indeed.