J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Model: Glossy and Shallow

Believe it or not, some men working in the fashion industry are looking to exploit young models. Equally shocking, some aspiring models try to sexually manipulate men to further their careers. Seriously, its all true. These are the sort of blockbuster revelations that are luridly illustrated in Mads Matthiesen’s trashy drama The Model (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Gangly young Emma Whatever has come to Paris to make it as a model. She has a slimy but legit agency and a mean waif image that always seems to have its champions. Unfortunately, her first shoot ends in disaster when she cannot act sexy enough for moving-and-shaking fashion photographer Shane White. However, she manages to act plenty sexy when they later hook-up at an in nightclub. From there, they quickly become an item and her career takes a dramatic upswing.

Of course, nothing is really that easy. First she crushes the spirit of her high school sweetheart, Frederik. Soon jealousies lead to betrayals and before you know it, Emma is wailing: “Shane, come back.” Okay, not really. Instead she deceptively fools him into a temporary rapprochement. Yet, this is perfectly representative of the film’s flaws. Frankly, Emma is so vacuous and morally pliable right from the start, there isn’t much of a curve to her downward spiral. It is just incident after incident of models and fashion professionals acting reprehensibly.

Occasionally, the film approaches a provocative issue, but Matthiesen and his co-screenwriters Martin Zandvliet and Anders Frithiof August always manage to nimbly skirt around them. This specifically includes the nature of Emma’s beauty. Real life model Maria Palm has her best moments explaining how her spindly look was often mocked in Denmark but is coveted in the Paris fashion world. Could it be that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder? Maybe, but it still seems like Claire Tran (who plays White’s assistant) is more attractive than the emaciated, sunken-eyed models her boss shoots.

Speaking of pronounced skull structures, Ed Skrein still immediately brings to mind Skeletor from the Masters of the Universe. Regardless, we can certainly buy him as the soulless, predatory White. To her credit, Maria Palm craters quite effectively. As Frederik, Marco Ilsø looks like Zac Efron, but he lacks the equivalent presence and talent level. However, Charlotte Tomaszewska (also a real life model) regularly upstages everyone as Emma’s live-in frienemy, Zofia.

We’ve seen all this so many times before. If anything distinguishes the slick but predictable Model, it is the extent Matthiesen revels in Emma’s downfall. Yet, that is precisely why it is such as jarring disappointment as the follow-up to his deeply humane Teddy Bear. Not recommended, The Model opens this Friday (8/12) in New York, at the Cinema Village.

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