A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this film includes sexual imagery ("comic" sex scenes, against a wall, passionate-awkward kissing, in a suds-filled tub) and language (slang for genitals and sexual activity). The film also includes language that pushes the PG-13 edge, including one f-word and especially, repetition of the word "bitch" (which Jazmin uses in reference to herself as well as the "skinny bitches" she hates). Some antic violence (as when Jazmin hits a girl and a man who call her "fat," or drops objects from her apartment window and hits her cousin on the sidewalk).
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What's the story?
In PHAT GIRLZ, Jazmin (Mo'Nique) is brassy, angry, and smarter than everyone else. She works at a department store where she daily sees women she calls "skinny bitches," privileged and arrogant, with rich and/or good-looking male partners who tell them they're "beautiful." Aside from work, where she commiserates with plus-size best friend Stacey (Kendra C. Johnson), Jazmin is also reminded of her lack of options by her roommate/cousin Mia (Joyful Drake), an aerobics instructor. Jazmin gets what pleasure she can by calling her obnoxious boss (Jack Noseworthy) "D--kface," a joke that wears out in one telling, but really, she wants to show her own design sketches to the stores' women's line buyer, Robert (Eric Roberts). Jazmin wins a contest and the girls head to a Palm Springs spa, where they meet doctors from Nigeria who prefer women of Jazmin and Stacey's mode, and disdain the preening Mia, who goes on to endure all manner of insult for the rest of the film.
Is it any good?
Mo'Nique stands up for plus-size women's rights to happiness and decent wardrobes, but Nnegest Likké's movie frames her with a set of broadly comic stereotypes that are less than empowering. The film's logic -- that inverting the hierarchy of beauty, from thin to large, amounts to retribution and redemption -- is troubling. Though Jazmin eventually makes up with Mia, the film never lets her off the hook, making her incessantly silly and vain. The other part of this logic, that men's desire determines women's worthiness, is certainly not unique to Phat Girlz.
To be fair, the movie does allow Jazmin another measure, when her designs do become successful, but the man-thing remains crucial for her self-worth. The film goes on too long, with too many possible endings (the first would be best). While it does make admirable claims for women resisting the judgments of others, it also makes fun of women. As much as it might have offered alternative imagery, the movie falls back on very familiar imagery. Mo'Nique can be unfamiliar, unsettling, and provocative, but she can also be exactly what you expect. Let's hope she finds a vehicle that allows more surprises.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: April 7, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: August 22, 2006
- Cast: Eric Roberts, Kendra C. Johnson, Mo'Nique
- Director: Nnegest Likke
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual content and language, including some crude sexual references.
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