Americans like to eat. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of every three of us qualifies as obese—and two out of every three are overweight. "Lbs." opens with a handful of Americans seated in a circular, group-meeting formation, each identifying himself by his first name and the addiction he shares with his peers: chronic overeating. The scene is sober and simple. It asks the audience to accept habitual gluttony on the same terms as drug or alcohol addiction, and it does so without even the gentlest head fake toward sentimentality or humor. It may be the film's strongest scene—and its tone is seldom repeated in the movie that follows.

Cut from group meeting to Neil (Carmine Famiglietti), an Italian-American Brooklynite of the "I could play background in 'The Sopranos' " variety, indulging in food and drink the way only a man of more than 300 pounds can. Two scenes later, Neil is in the hospital; we learn that he has survived a heart attack and that his sister was supposed to get married in two days. Oops. Shamed by his inability to keep Twinkies and pizza at bay, Neil recruits his coke-fiend pal Sacco (Michael Aranov) to join him on an extended stay in the wilds of upstate New York, where they will kick their respective addictions together. But together doesn't last, and Neil is soon left to wrestle with his demons in Thoreau-like solitude (if Thoreau had had a CB radio and plumbing in his trailer).

The film thrives most in this time of exile. Yes, there is an annoying whiff of the omega male about Neil—particularly in his Apatow-improbable relationship with a local waitress—but removed from the context of Guido Brooklyn, his character and his addiction come into focus. Despite the downright corny dialogue exchanged, Aranov and Famiglietti display good chemistry in this act's early scenes, and though the physical transformation the latter actor eventually undergoes would be hard not to spot coming, it's still impressive.

When the triumphant return to civilization arrives, Famiglietti, who co-wrote the screenplay, and writer-director Matthew Bonifacio take Neil to unexpected places. Those dramatic choices aren't always smart, and even when they are, they can be undermined by Neil's occasional petulance. But they also show that Famiglietti and Bonifacio have ambitions beyond telling yet another story of foible-filled people in the land of tracksuits and pizza parlors. That, at least, is appreciated.

Genre: Drama
Written by Carmine Famiglietti and Matthew Bonifacio
Directed by Matthew Bonifacio
Starring Carmine Famiglietti, Michael Aranov, Lou Martini Jr., Sharon Angela