In his 2008 docu on American femmes’ obsession with beauty, Darryl Roberts wandered around on camera, interviewing a wide range of people about a wide range of issues, loosely but effectively tying them to the story of a 12-year-old model. “America the Beautiful 2” concentrates on only one aspect covered in the original: the compulsion to be thin and the misguided medical/cultural imperatives that mandate it. Yet, paradoxically, this single focus results in a confused, scattershot approach that sabotages the thrust of his argument. Pic bows Oct. 14 at Gotham’s Quad Cinema, but even its tube future looks lightweight.
Roberts’ strength as a documentarian lies in his amiable, laid-back openness toward his interviewees. He functions best as a genial audience surrogate, ambling along where his curiosity leads him. Here, however, his interest seems more personal, skewing the docu’s proportions. Taking a page from Morgan Spurlock’s playbook, Roberts becomes the object of his film as well as its subject; his own weight problems soon occupy centerstage. Visiting doctors and health gurus, he becomes the reluctant guinea pig for various diets and regimens, reaching conclusions strangely similar to his initial hypotheses.