Advanced Style begins with the bounce-and-flounce energy, the ‘zazz and spark, you’d expect of a movie about seven New York gals stylin’ it up on the Big Apple’s sidewalks, streets, or even at home in their apartments or brownstones. But the movie’s insistence on framing these chic grand dames through the fish-bowled lens of the blog and spin-off book that have made them celebrated figures crops out most of the background, family history and life stories that could make them glitter all the brighter.
Tziporah Salamon, 62, works in a vintage store and can take years to complete an outfit; she admits her bags and clothes are substitute children. Joyce Carpati, 80, worked on some of Hearst’s fashion magazines. Lynn Dell Cohen, 79, runs a boutique store and is extroverted and straight-shootin’. Debra Rapoport, 67, is creatively thrifty: “I consider my body an armature, and then I just build up on it.” Ilona Royce Smithkin, 93 (but, “I used to say, ‘I’m between 50 and death'”), sports fake eyelashes made from her orange-dyed hair and is an artist and teacher. Jacquie “Tajah” Murdock, 81, was a dancer at the Apollo. Zelda Kaplan, 95 (“I think I was born happy. I was a 10-pound baby.”), collects beautiful weaving and has it tailored into outfits.
But the doc, veering away from these women’s style philosophies or witticisms or their families or health concerns or surely fascinating pasts, becomes promotional and proselytizing. Our superficial guide is Ari Seth Cohen, whose photos made these women well-known—is this doc just another media platform? The middle section follows them to a TV-show pitch, fashion shoots (the Lanvin Paris logo is twice given its own full-screen ad), and Ricki Lake’s talk show. It’s all rather America’s Next Top Over-50 Model. A late return to the realities of old age seems tacked-on; there’s been too much disingenuous “I feel wonderful” talk already. These women’s personalities and styles get camera-brushed into one commercial gloss, a simplistic patina of fashionability. Even their witticisms are watered down—the last, virtually trademarked words before the credits are “Cheers, to another glorious, Advanced Style day,” brand-name-dropping us back to the title of blog, book and movie.