Review: Advanced Style

The biggest reveal in this documentary is how a stranger can eye up an unsuspecting woman on the streets of New York without appearing creepy. Ari Seth Cohen is in awe of the older stylish woman. Approaching a woman in leather pants and headscarf he snares his prey with a charming line: “You’re going to be one of our younger ones. We usually start at 50.” “I’m 60,” she purrs.

The brightest stars of Cohen’s blog Advanced Style are actually women in their 80s and 90s. A fashionista from Barneys insists photographing chic seniors is “anarchic” and “provocative”. It’s not. It’s fun and life-affirming and pleasantly voyeuristic. So is the film version. It goes a little deeper into the lives of Cohen’s favourite discoveries than the blog, but barely. And that’s a shame because there are hints of amazing stories: the 93-year-old who drew Ayn Rand’s book portrait and the blind 81-year-old who was an original Apollo Theatre dancer.

An inherent problem in adapting blogs for screen is a lack of narrative structure and that’s an issue here as the film flits from woman to woman – ogling their outlandish outfits and allowing bon mots on aging. “Live in the moment.”

The blog has landed its subjects fashion campaigns from Lanvin to Kmart (and Karen Walker although the New Zealand designer doesn’t feature in the film). An investigation into the casting of these campaigns would be a more searing commentary on our youth-obsessed society. But Advanced Style doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s an invitation to enjoy the company of some well-frocked grand dames. Sound frivolous? It is. Unashamedly.

‘Advanced Style’ Movie Times