Whew, tread lightly here. Reviewing a film written by, starring, and based on the life of a real life cancer survivor is a no-win situation. A nasty review makes you an insensitive jerk; a review that’s too gushy and you’re pandering. One gets the distinctive feeling that Julianne Buescher, the writer and lead actress in this self-described comedy about breast cancer, would, more than anything, appreciate a review as honest and unbiased as if the film was a documentary on sea slugs.
Fair enough. What’s not fair, however, is the cruel trick fate plays on Kate (Buescher). Even though breast cancer afflicted both Kate’s grandmother and mother, it still comes as a shock when Dr. Porter (Michæl Craven Wells) informs her that a biopsy from her left breast is positive. Thus, at age 28, Kate has breast cancer. (“There goes your social life,” says one particularly insensitive potential surgeon. Nice.)
What follows is an almost carnival-like depiction of the events leading up to Kate’s mastectomy and subsequent recovery. Director Daniel Vecchione leads us through everything from Kate’s dealings with her well-meaning but irritating and insensitive home nurse, to her shopping around for post-op padded bras and choosing between baldness and a tacky wig during chemo. In the midst of this determined levity, Vecchione and Buescher also manage to work in several welcome breathers of poignant reflection, as well as a few tender moments between Kate and her mother.
Most of the gallows humor here falls flat, to be honest. Still, tackling such awkward issues in this film’s in-your-face and relentlessly upbeat fashion shines a much-needed spotlight on the stigma of breast cancer. It’s also very easy to imagine a much different response to these scenes from a room full of people who’ve either gone through this difficult experience…or, like members of various women’s groups across the country, face that possibility someday.
And here’s where “Resculpting Venus” has the potential to do the most good, not so much as entertainment for entertainment’s sake, but as a tool to aid in education and awareness. The film offers an unspoken reminder of the importance of mammograms (particularly if the disease runs in the family), as well as an overall empowering message about being in control of treatment.
So, there you have it: Neither undeserved accolades nor golden orbs for “Venus”; conversely, no unnecessary knocking of this film about knockers. With decent if not spectacular writing combined with performances and gags that hit about as often as they miss, “Resculpting Venus” rates a solid “C” cup.