Tim Realbuto credits Bobcat Moretti as the film that saved his life. Best known for his stage work, the actor weighed nearly 400 pounds in 2020. Co-written with director Rob Margolies, Bobcat Moretti is a screenplay Realbuto crafted to coincide with his own health-improvement journey through gastric band surgery, diet and exercise, and strength training through boxing; the last of those provides the cinematic canvas to complement Realbuto’s real-world regimen.
By filming across a calendar year, Realbuto reflected his reimagined health in the span of the movie. At roughly its halfway point, Bobcat Moretti cuts to a Realbuto who has lost 154 pounds — an alleged weight-loss record for a role and an impetus for the film’s conclusion, in which Realbuto’s title character attempts to reclaim his life’s purpose after resculpting his well-being.
Realbuto deserves kudos for recognizing, and choosing, a productive path to better health. The earliest moments of training in the film he has crafted around his path also carry a persuasive, pleasant, plain-and-profane power. Bobcat Moretti also provides what is easily Vivica A. Fox’s best role in 20 years, as gym owner Jo establishes a nice Mick-and-Rock rapport with Moretti, who’s trying to follow in his own boxing-legend father’s footsteps. “Focus your negativity on the empty space between the bag and the glove,” Jo tells Moretti. She also says that while violence is an inescapable aspect of the sweet science, it is not the formula that matters most.
Too bad Realbuto and Margolies don’t follow their own advice. The film confuses ideas of inspiration through perseverance with deafening detonations of melodramatic depth charges that involve murder, rape, two generations of domestic violence, elder dementia, drug and alcohol addiction, and multiple sclerosis diagnoses. That the film’s pregnant character suffers no miscarriage feels like a miracle (although the screenplay certainly flirts with that outcome, too). Rather than continue to put a new spin on a tired sports yarn, Bobcat Moretti swerves into an overcomplicated and overwhelmingly wrongheaded Old Testament Passion Play.
Even without spotting suspicious bruises, Moretti’s tragedy- and trauma-riddled past would make it easy for him to identify scenarios of abuse — such as the one faced by his fellow trainee Lacey (Sheria Irving). Spotting the sort of aggression that annihilated his world and heading it off in a productive way before it can swallow someone else would be an easy approach. But it would definitely be more effective than putting Moretti on a crash course to trade punches in a Friday-night fight with Lacey’s abuser, Tony “The Reaper” Pinto (Jay Hieron), or the romance he attempts to cultivate with Lacey. Tony is a vile person, responsible for a good portion of the bad things mentioned above. But the film’s obsession with the righteous, retaliatory strike against him — and the notion that even just making Tony bleed will somehow empower Moretti — feels rotten compared to a solid, simple story of self-improvement. It also shifts Moretti’s mousy whisper from endearing underdog to eerie judge, jury and executioner. For a woman who insists violence has little to do with boxing, Jo certainly lets a lot of it happen in that eventual fight.
Bobcat Moretti isn’t a specifically faith-driven production. But when it gets around to Jo’s mysterious (but not surprising) past, she invokes the Serenity Prayer. Indeed, there is that in the world which can be changed and that which cannot. Before delivering their final cut of Bobcat Moretti, you’ll wish Margolies and Realbuto had found the wisdom to know one from the other.
Bobcat Moretti will screen during the 31st Heartland International Film Festival at:
- 2:45 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 11, at Living Room Theatres, 745 E. 9th St., Suite 810, in Indianapolis
- 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Toby Theater at Newfields, 4000 N. Michigan Road, in Indianapolis
Rob Margolies (director, producer and co-writer) and Tim Realbuto (producer, co-writer and actor) are scheduled to be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A at both screenings.
Bobcat Moretti will also be available to stream online from noon Thursday, Oct. 6 through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16 (all times Eastern) through Heartland’s virtual platform.
Tickets are available at heartlandfilm.org/festival.