Monday, September 17, 2012

Girl Model

There’s a great movie to be made about a 13-year-old Russian girl named Nadya who sees modeling as her ticket out of Siberia (though she’s not totally sure she wants to leave). Out of hundreds of girls, a modeling scout named Ashley, who freelances for a Tokyo agency, believes Nadya best fits the current Japanese aesthetic, which boils down to “you can never be too thin or too young.” Ashley signs Nadya to an adhesion contract (it can be revoked if any of her dimensions changes by one centimeter and its terms can be changed “on a day to day basis”) and flies her to Tokyo, where she gets lost for hours in the subway system, doesn’t speak the language, and knows only the other, wealthier Russian girl with whom she will share a tiny apartment.

Unfortunately, the documentary “Girl Model” is not that great movie. At 76 minutes, it’s too cursory meaningfully to explore its subject, and what’s on the screen is often formless and haphazard. The filmmakers have also devoted too much of their runtime to Ashley, herself a former model, whose self-second-guessing insights into the business are largely banal. “Girl Model” introduces a number of interesting ideas: the motivations and complicities of all of the parties, the isolation one can feel in even the most densely populated of world cities, the small step for some girls from selling themselves to the camera to selling themselves to wealthy men. Unfortunately, it lacks the vocabulary to shed real light on any of them.

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