Though it comes across as hale and hearty, Chris Bell’s Bigger Stronger Faster*, a litany of American body worship touchstones since the early Eighties, is nothing if not ambivalent towards its subject. Falling somewhere between a specific personal essay and a more vaguely targeted social commentary, Bell’s documentary, a freeform expose of steroid use in the U.S., is, somewhat inevitably, a product of narcissism and insecurity, not unlike the psychological forces that compel bodybuilding and athletic determination in the first place. Fledgling feature filmmaker Bell, a self-described “fat, pale kid from Poughkeepsie” turns his camera on himself, his equally brawny brothers, and the culture at large that both tacitly supports and vocally abhors performance-enhancing drugs.
With jocular everydude Bell as our backwards cap and cargo shorts-wearing guide and Moore-ishly glib narrator, Bigger Stronger Faster* intrigues less as a diary film than as an occasionally revealing, knotty journey into the contradictions at the heart of the steroid debate–with the bar set so high, is it possible for athletes to stop the testosterone injections without falling to a disadvantage? Have crusading congressmen and media alarmists blown the consequences of steroid use, or abuse, out of proportion? Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky’s review of Bigger Stronger Faster*.