the Beautiful (USA; 105 min.)
directed by: Darryl Roberts
Michael says: "Darryl Roberts’ AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL kicked off a series of strong docs at Provincetown, with a theme that always intrigues me: America’s obsession with beauty culture. Reminiscent of the outstanding, Chlotrudis award-winning short documentary WET DREAMS AND FALSE IMAGES by Jesse Epstein, AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL quickly overcame my own assumed flaw, the fact that the director was a man. Early in the film, Roberts confesses that he was involved in a long-term relationship with a lovely woman for many years, but would not marry her because he always thought someone better, i.e. more beautiful, was waiting around the corner. Eventually his girlfriend did get married… to someone else, and Roberts became driven to uncover society’s obsession with physical perfection.
"Roberts tackles an impressive array of subjects: child models, plastic surgery, celebrity fascination, dangerous cosmetics, unhealthy body image (i.e. anorexia and bulimia), and airbrushed advertising. What seems in review, too much for a single film, works marvelously well in Roberts powerfully structured film. Roberts unifies his themes by following a central story; that of child model Gerren Taylor, discovered at age 12, and possibly washed up by age 15. Gerren is a fascinating subject, and found myself disturbed as I watched her story unfold. Here was this Amazonianly tall, beautiful girl possessing uncanny attitude and that all-important ‘walk’ while working, but displaying an age-appropriate personality when at home with her mother, and at school with her friends. While I was appalled at the way the fashion industry fawned over this child, I could certainly see in Gerren’s talent, why the industry was falling all over itself to work with her.
"Roberts wrote, directed, and narrated AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL, and while similar in structure to Michael Moore’s popular documentaries, his affable, approachable personality is more approachable and less provocative that Moore’s. Roberts doesn’t need to be provocative; the subject matter of his film has that covered. The varied interviews Roberts conducts are entertaining, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Anthony Keidis to a trio of male pals spewing some pretty hateful attitude in their views on women and beauty. Roberts even gets into the act by interviewing the folks behind www.BeautifulPeople.net, and then creating a profile where members of the website vote on whether he is beautiful enough to join (the folks who run the website insist that the voting is based on how you present yourself personality-wise and not solely on physical appearance). I will let you find out if Roberts makes the cut when you see the film. 5 cats.AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL screened at the Provincetown International Film Festival"