VIFF 2014 Review: Advanced Style

Advanced Style is a documentary about elderly women who know style!
Advanced Style is a documentary about seven elderly women who know style!

Think high-end fashion is only for the young? Advanced Style proves that fashion is for the old too. And these seven elderly fashionistas could easily give Coco Chanel a run for her money.

The film begins as an introduction first to Ari Seth Cohen, co-writer and creator of the blog Advanced Style about fashionable seniors. Then we meet the seven senior women in focus: all from New York and aged between 62 to 95. The first part is an introduction of the seven about who they are and what they buy. The film continues focus on the women but soon these women don’t seem so cartoonish as one would first think. All the women seem to enjoy life and have a positive outlook on themselves. Some are grandmothers, some are widowed, one or two never married, one or two are with their husband or a new mate. Some live the relaxed life of a senior citizen while some stay active by singing, dancing and even teaching art classes.

When you watch the film, you can easily see your perception of elderly women change. You first think they’re nearing the end of their life but they’ll show you they’re living it as if they were youthful twenty-somethings. Seeing how they go about in terms of their choice of clothes, their socializing and their activities will really surprise you and make you rethink growing old.

It’s not to say that their uniqueness isn’t immune to some negative aspects out there. Once they made an appearance on the Ricki Lake show and 80 year-old Joyce Carpati is intoxicated by the red light and looks foolish while singing a song. Even the fact of death is unavoidable as the women attend a fashion show in New York by a leading fashion designer (whom of course has young thin models) and Zelda Kaplan, the eldest of the seven at 95, is taken to the hospital and later dies. Nevertheless it was fun to watch from start to finish. Even seeing one woman strut her stuff down Beverly Hills will make you want to say “You go girl!”

Ari Seth Cohen is of course the brains behind the film. He knows this subject from head to toe because it’s the subject of his blog inspired from the joie de vivre of his own grandmother. He even wrote an Advanced Style book. He shows them in a mostly positive manner in both what they wear and who they are. Even if some of the choices look ridiculous like some of the hats worn or the big Edith Head glasses or even the woman who makes eyelash extensions out of her own hair, he presents them as them being themselves and not caring. He made the right choice in picking fashion film director Lina Plioplyte to direct and co-write the film.

As far as a film, I don’t see it being too much of a big screen release. This looks like something that will mostly fare well on an educational channel like BC’s Knowledge network or a documentary channel. Also I believe this might be Ari’s only documentary unless he shells out a sequel with some new seniors to show their stuff.

Advanced Style is definitely a charming documentary of elderly women who are young at heart in both the way they dress but the way they live too. One said fashion is about confidence. You can bet they’re full of that.

Also those interested in the Advanced Style blog, here’s the link.


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