21st Aug2015

‘Review 2×04: Cult, Perfect Body’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“It’s easy. You find some vulnerable people, you isolate them, you exploit them financially. Then, rivers of blood.”

Lucille calls it right from the get-go. When a man about to open a CrossFit gym asks Forrest what it’s like to be a cult leader he might as well start chiseling tombstones. Forrest himself even admits, all of five minutes into ‘Cult; Perfect Body,’ that founding a vapid, financially predatory cult with the assistance of his girlfriend(whose death he mourns while still referring to her as “Mrs. Greenfield”) has driven him mad with power. The cult itself is a fabulous joke, Forrest’s unconscious sublimation of his show’s pointlessness into an equally pointless quest to “live a five-star life.” He mocks their credulity while feeding them the same ethos he uses to justify his monstrous behavior as the host of Revieweverything in his life twisted and absorbed by his television persona. Even the insane busywork engineering project he decrees to keep the cultists happy is an echo of the day he killed his father-in-law.

Forrest’s absolution of his fellow cultists takes the cult into frightening territory. The hapless people who answer Forrest’s perfunctory call to leave their old lives behind are more than ready to believe that he, the Cosmic Father, can absolve them of what turn out to be some…pretty dark shit. As they confess crimes and sign their life savings over to Forrest, a few things become apparent. One is that Forrest has become nauseatingly adept at insinuating himself into the lives of broken people, using his own dysfunction as a road map to their secret desires and then exploiting them for all they’re worth. The second is that this will always, inevitably, end in disaster. When Mrs. Greenfield empowers herself by seizing Forrest’s place and declaring herself a sixth-level adherent to the cult, it’s hardly a surprise. Forrest can’t sway her and his followers are easily persuaded to abandon him.

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Exiled and shunned, Forrest heads inside and trudges dejectedly past his dad. Max Gail has been delivering top-shelf work all season, and his sympathetic “Just like model airplane club?” sells the idea of a man who’s had to deal with Forrest MacNeil for his entire life. Forrest shakes off his defeat, abandons his homegrown cult right across the street from his dad’s last remaining house, and sets off to pursue a perfect body. His studious self-evaluation in front of the mirror is cute, but it’s Grant’s total lack of human engagement that sells the scene. James Urbaniak gives Forrest a mild, thin smile, washes his hands in the bathroom sink, and leaves. When he returns days later to find a Forrest covered in implants and sporting a massive, surgically-enhanced penis, he takes a moment to prod Forrest further toward chaos by offhandedly dismissing him. Then things really take a turn.

Review can’t keep topping itself forever. There are only so many graves one man can dig. There are only so many houses to burn. There will come a Thursday evening when Forrest will simply die or run out of things to poison and annihilate, but it sure as hell wasn’t tonight. The apocalypse comes simply, each nail hammered in with flat finality. Forrest’s dad gets tired of the cult’s drum circles. He calls the police to file a noise complaint. Forrest, ‘roid-raging and bright orange from artificial tanning, storms back into the cult encampment. Mrs. Greenfield has been arming and training her followers. She has formed a fanatical militia. A fight ensues between Forrest and the cultists. “This flag used to stand for something beautiful!” Forrest bellows, his voice distorted by dental prosthetics. Tires raising curtains of dust on the back country road, the police arrive with the FBI cult squad in tow.

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A full-blown, honest-to-goodness firefight erupts and from what I could tell every cultist Forrest fished out of the shallow end of Hollywood’s pool gets cut down by the law. Every one of those poor saps is living out a less lucky version of Forrest’s personal journey, taking a bullet for an idiotic cause and not really understanding why they don’t just throw up their hands and surrender. Forrest himself escapes harm, but his dad’s house is destroyed by an RPG and his beloved Mrs. Greenfield is shredded by gunfire. Comedy shows willing to wade this deep into the river are few and far between, and it’s as thrilling as it is horrifying to contemplate what new ways Review will find to make us gaze deep into the dark mirror of Forrest’s soul.

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