Fresh on Netflix: ‘TO THE BONE’ and ‘FRIENDS FROM COLLEGE’ leave a bad taste in your mouth


Preston Barta // Editor

Aside from this year’s GLOW, I haven’t enjoyed much out of Netflix’s wheelhouse, and that continues with today’s releases of TO THE BONE and FRIENDS FROM COLLEGE.

Not rated, 107 minutes.
Director: Marti Noxon
Cast: Lily CollinsKathryn PrescottKeanu ReevesAlex SharpLiana LiberatoCarrie PrestonAlanna Ubach and Lili Taylor

Sometimes we can get so caught up in the fun of escapist entertainment that we forget how profound an awareness film can be. We often choose to ignore them. “That movie seems too depressing.” — “Life is hard as it is.” — “Why would I want to watch something like that?” Tearjerkers can be a rewarding experience. There have been a few of them this year that I found myself swept up in and have since walked through life with my ear closer to the ground. Sadly, TO THE BONE is not one of them.

TO THE BONE, written and directed by Marti Noxon (UnREAL, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER), is a Netflix-produced film that centers on a 20-year-old anorexic girl named Ellen (Lily Collins) who has spent most of adolescent life going through various recovery programs, only to find herself still losing weight. Her family is determined to find a solution to her illness, and find hope in a non-traditional doctor (Keanu Reeves) who runs a group home for youths. Their atypical rules are a bit jarring, but perhaps this is what Ellen needs in order to push forward.

TO THE BONE means well, but oddly enough for a film that takes on anorexia, it fails to evoke the reality of the disease. The movie merely takes us through the pamphlet of the illness and never finds an interesting way to present its dated material. This is surprising considering how talented Noxon has proved her self to be in her past work. Aside from its committed talent on screen, TO THE BONE never cuts deep enough to mark it memorable.

Grade: D

TV-MA, about 240 minutes.
Creator: Francesca Delbanco and Nicholas Stoller
Cast: Keegan-Michael KeyCobie SmuldersAnnie ParisseNat FaxonFred Savage and Jae Suh Park

Like TO THE BONE, this eight-episode dramatic comedy series has all the elements to make it promising. It also focuses on subject that many of us can identify with: How do we do this whole adult thing, even when we’re in our 30s and 40s? Add a great cast (Keegan Michael-Key, Cobie Smulders and Fred Savage), some fun cameos and hard-hitting jokes, and you have the next binge-worthy series. Not quite.

Imagine if all characters from FRIENDS were unlikable, cheated on each other constantly without reason, and didn’t know how to keep the energy fun long enough before you realized growing old sucks. There are a few solid laughs, but it’s not worth the devastation you must endure to get there. This show has selfish written all over and it never lets up.

Grade: D+

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.