Advanced Style

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Advanced Style Movie Poster Image
Docu about senior fashionistas promotes positive body image.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 72 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Filled with messages about aging with spirit and grace, asserting your own sense of style and personality, living life to the fullest, and the subjective nature of beauty. Encourages courage, compassion, and pride in one's artistic sense without reservation.  

Positive Role Models & Representations

Seven senior women over 62 years old are portrayed as confident, poised, artistic, fun-loving, and unafraid of "breaking the mold." Promotes women finding their own beauty and style. Downplays typical standards of beauty and spotlights individualism, making the most of what you have, and artistry as a means of self-expression. Though everyone portrayed lives in New York City, the women come from a variety of economic levels. One of the featured women is African-American.

Violence
Sex

A store owner comments on a customer's breasts.

Language

"Bitches," "s--tless."

Consumerism

Lanvin, Kmart, the Discovery Channel, the Ricki Lake Show.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Advanced Style is a fun, spirited documentary about women of "a certain age" (62-95) living in New York City. Photographer Ari Seth Cohen has turned his personal affinity for the artistry and wisdom of his own grandmother into a tribute to mature women who think that living well is the best revenge. The seven individuals upon whom he focuses his camera, his Advanced Style blog, a book, and now this cinematic tribute show a wonderful assortment of fashion icons, entrepreneurs, artists, and show-stoppers who turn every day into an adventure of color, texture, bling, and, above all, personality. Their mantra is "never too old"; their attitude is "nothing is too much." Other than one use of "bitches," one "s--t," and a brief reference to a customer's breasts, there's nothing racy here. There's a moment of sadness when it's revealed that one of the participants passed away before the film was finished. Although sass and flash make the whole endeavor appealing, there are important messages about aging gracefully, body image, standing out from the crowd, and self-esteem that make it worthwhile, especially for tweens and teens who can't help but be inspired by these singular women. 

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What's the story?

Starting with his own grandmother, Ari Seth Cohen has always been intrigued by and in awe of older women. As a street photographer in New York City, Cohen found an abundance of magnificent women -- women who refused to let age hold them back, who gloried in their maturing bodies and love of looking good. In ADVANCED STYLE, these women become his passion. He chose seven of them: the youngest in her early 60s, the oldest in her mid-90s, and among them an artist, a dancer during the earliest days of Harlem's Apollo Theater, a magazine executive, and the proprietor of Off Broadway, an iconic Manhattan store. What they have in common is a love for life, a flair for fashion, and an ease with being centerstage. What the movie lacks in narrative -- there's no "story" to speak of -- it more than makes up for in fun. Along with a camera crew, director Lina Plioplyte interviewed them, integrated herself into their lives, and, with more than a little help from Cohen, gave each of these ladies at least 15 minutes of fame. We see their joy at being noticed, at being pursued, and comfortably fitting into the spotlight into which they're thrust. We follow them to a fashion house in France and an appearance on the Ricki Lake Show and see their excitement of being stars for a moment. 

Is it any good?

Ilana Royce Smithkin, Jacquie Tajah Murdock, Joyce Capati, Debra Rapoport, Lynn Bell, Zelda Kaplan, and Tsiporah Salamon all are one of a kind -- fun to watch and easy to get to know. Ms. Plioplyte captures their spirit, their beauty, their artistry, and their undeniable desire to grow old with panache. There are no in-depth plot lines here, no hard-luck tales, and no emotional breakdowns, but even through the gloss and glitter, a viewer can get a glimpse of fragility, of the courage this lifestyle takes, and the resilience of these remarkable women. In a culture of near-impossible standards of beauty, mean girls, bullying, and the dark elements of social media, Advanced Style is an ideal movie for tweens and teens -- and for all grown-ups, too. It has the potential to inspire, to encourage thinking for oneself, to stimulate the groundbreaker in all of us. If nothing else, it certainly is an eye-opener about how well a woman can age. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the goals of documentaries: to entertain, to inform, to persuade. What do you think the goal of Advanced Style is? Are there elements of the other categories? If so, which ones, and why?

  • What is the message (or messages) in this film? How may these messages be of value to you at any age?

  • Is there a senior in your life whom you admire? What makes her/him admirable? What can you learn from this person?

  • How does Advanced Style promote compassion and courage? Why are these important character strengths?

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