The Aisle Steat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Make Me Young

I don't remember who said it, but one of the best quotes I ever read was (and I'm slightly paraphrasing here), "Don't fear getting old; it is a luxury afforded to only a few." From the time I read that, I vowed not to get too worked up about the effects of aging. If you grow old, it means that you've had lots of time to live, and that is a blessing. Not everyone shares this point of view. In fact, the anti-aging business generates $60 billion a year. That's a lot of money spent on vanity. Consider that people in some parts of the world don't even have clean water to drink and that vanity becomes almost offensive. Filmmaker Mitch McCabe has had a lifelong fascination with age; her father was a plastic surgeon, and she spent her childhood watching him perform surgeries to make people feel better about themselves. Her documentary, Make Me Young: Youth Knows No Pain debuted on HBO but is now available on DVD in a longer director's cut.

McCabe follows several people as they discuss the surgeries and procedures they've had to combat aging. One guy gets painful (and bloody) scalp injections to transplant hair. Another has transformed himself into a Jack Nicholson doppelganger (which is odd because Nicholson's getting up in age, but whatever). There's internet celebrity Julia Allison who, at age 27, is already injecting things into her face to prevent looking older. McCabe also interviews plastic surgeons such as Dr. Franklin Rose, who once asked his daughter if her breasts were asymmetrical.

The person most likely to make an impact on you, however, is Sherry Mecom, a woman who is 53 when we first see her, but an anti-aging regimen makes her look in her 40's. She claims to be happier than ever with her appearance. When Sherry returns at the end, McCabe discovers that she has radically changed her look over the course of a year. You may agree with me that she appears to have gone way too far. It's almost shocking when the movie cuts back and forth between her then-and-now interview sessions.

Make Me Young has lots of discussion about anti-aging procedures, as McCabe attempts to ascertain why people engage in them. What I came away with was that it becomes a scary obsession that, once begun, is difficult to get away from. Almost everyone the filmmaker interviews is able to detect aging signs in other people; several of them spend time pointing out little things that the ordinary person wouldn't notice. They notice, of course, because they've learned to spot these "flaws" from their own experiences with plastic surgeons. It becomes the only thing they see when looking at themselves or someone else. More than anything, Make Me Young captures the weird delusional effect anti-aging addiction has. Apparently, many people don't care if they look like complete freaks so long as they have no frown lines.

This is the latest in a series of documentaries where the filmmaker approaches the subject matter from a personal point of view. Mitch McCabe inserts herself into the movie frequently. A subsection of it is devoted to her own insecurities as she decides whether or not to get Botox. The personal approach can be hit-or-miss. In this case, McCabe is not as inherently charismatic as a Morgan Spurlock or a Michael Moore. Her reflections of her father are admittedly touching, but her internal struggles are not really as gripping to us as they are to her.

On balance, Make Me Young is still sufficiently fascinating to merit a look. McCabe's subjects paint a disturbing portrait of fear: fear of physical/mental deterioration, fear of mortality. Getting Botox injections and plastic surgery gives them the ability to pretend that they are above such things. Imagine how crushed these people will be when they learn that you can't outrun time. What a compelling, sad film.

Make Me Young: Youth Knows No Pain is available on DVD from Cinema Libre Studio. The disc comes with filmmaker commentary, extended interviews, and a behind-the-scenes featurette.

( out of four)

Make Me Young: Youth Knows No Pain is unrated but contains adult language, nudity, and graphic depictions of surgery. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.