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Why it has taken someone so long to come up with a film that merges getting over a break-up with getting in shape is beyond me. After all, this is a process that many of us have gone through and will easily relate to. What can safely be said about this comedic take on fixing a broken heart by bench-pressing and weird leg exercises, however, is that it is definitely worth the wait. Writer Aaron Bleyaert and director Ben Berman hit upon a stroke of genius with this film by telling their story in the form of a hilariously narrated exercise instruction video. The film blows through steps one and two of the titular four easy steps with the very sage advice of cutting out beer and exercising portion control of your meals. The story picks up once we hit step three (have your heart broken). This is where the story spends the vast majority of its time, as it speeds through a laundry list of stages that anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of a break-up will recognise.
Beck Bennett brings the recently dumped Christopher to life as we are introduced to him in the depths of heart-broken despair. The writing has an interesting dynamic when introducing Christopher in that it is his break-up that is used as the first big laugh of the film. This is not done in a callous or cruel way, although Christopher lying on the ground in his underwear pining after his ex-girlfriend Rachel (a brilliantly wicked yet sympathetic Britt Lower) via her picture on his phone’s home screen may induce a shameful chuckle. It is the sudden shift from gym-music led infomercial (or gymfomercial) to awkwardly walking in on someone’s utter misery, then without missing a beat it’s back to gymfomercial.
More conventional laughs are had as we watch Christopher suffer through his first few trips to the gym, being too weak to do anything “except lift five pound weights with the old people.” But where the film really shines is its ability to mine comedy out of moments of pain, usually by building up the pace and momentum of the storytelling and then for Rachel to do something that brings it all to a complete halt. The brilliance here is that this is often how the process of recovering from a break-up goes. Action followed by progress followed by derailment. Repeat until the derailing element no longer derails you.
One of the notable accomplishments of the film is not to linger for too long on moments of pain but not to gloss over them either. Instead, the moments of pain are used to punctuate Christopher’s journey and illustrate the power that Rachel has over him. Given the slender 7-minute running time, it is a testament to Bleyaert’s straight-to-the-point writing that there is still time in the film to reflect on Christopher’s world view and how it gradually changes the closer he gets to the end of his journey.
The two scenes when he looks out at the city at night are particularly memorable. The first time he looks at all of the office lights of the buildings across the city, he comes away feeling nothing but lonliness. The second time when he is led to the same view by gym-buddy Melissa (Jessy Hodges), he is inspired to see something else entirely. In a scene that, played traditionally, could be trite or cliché, Bleyaert’s ability to find the core of a scene and Berman’s ability to capture the essence of that core moment give a surprising weight and heart to this short film and provides a turning point for Christopher that we suddenly realise that we have been rooting for. How To Lose Weight In 4 Easy Steps gives us a good dose of humour and heart and is a very uplifting way to spend 7 minutes.
Studio: Benjamin Berman | Year: 2016 | Genre: Romance/Comedy | Duration: 7 mins | Suitability: Mature - Strong language