A pseudo-investigation into the average American’s daily exposure to harmful chemicals, “Unacceptable Levels” marries folksy astonishment and alarmist speculation in a documentary far too easy to dismiss. Anything from food to water to makeup could be the culprits for everything from cancer to autism, according to first-time filmmaker Ed Brown, but an inability to connect the dots and a wildly unfocused approach make his argument feel like the world’s most genial paranoid rant. Pic ultimately tests what level of conjecture audiences find acceptable before tuning out entirely.
Brown takes a page from Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock by placing himself (and his family) at the center of the film, citing his wife’s two miscarriages and Chron’s disease and his cataract and asthma as motivating factors to learn more about chemicals. Interviews with 45 separate environmental activists and scientists result in little beyond anecdotal worries like “kids are being born pre-polluted” and “we’re bathing in carcinogens in the modern industrial environment.” In lieu of hard evidence, Brown peppers the film with quotes from famed philosophers (Plato, Mark Twain) and clips from standups and comedy shows (Louis CK, “The Simpsons”).