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On TV: 'About Face: Supermodels Then and Now' -- 3 stars

"About Face: Supermodels Then and Now" (Mark Mahaney/Greenfield-Sanders Studio/courtesy of HBO) Credit: "About Face: Supermodels Then and Now" (Mark Mahaney/Greenfield-Sanders Studio/courtesy of HBO)

About Face: Supermodels Then and Now
3 stars

You might think supermodels have it easy: Show up to work, look beautiful in expensive clothes and call it a day. But the new HBO documentary "About Face: Supermodels Then and Now" persuasively shatters that notion.

Filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders' insider look reveals a world packed with insane pressures and outsized expectations, as told through the recollections of an impressive roster of past supermodel greats, from Carmen Dell'Orefice to Jerry Hall and Christie Brinkley.

In just 72 minutes, the film comprehensively explores the history of modeling in the 20th and 21st centuries, delves into the personal stories of its many famous subjects and depicts the various ways they've dealt with the challenges of the aging process.

It's not easy to pack that much into such a minuscule running time, especially in a movie that's far from an apologia for the industry, and at times deeply critical of it.

But Greenfield-Sanders pulls it off, seamlessly transitioning from Hall's recollections of growing up in Texas to Isabella Rossellini sharing her experiences as a 28-year-old starting out in modeling and Dell'Orefice, 81, embracing her senior years.

The movie celebrates the beauty and glamour of the supermodel life, but it's not afraid of its downside.

Greenfield-Sanders and his subjects deal head-on with the rampant drug use that's taken hold during different periods, the perpetuation of thoroughly unrealistic body standards and the disturbing sexualization of teenagers, most famously in the Brooke Shields Calvin Klein jeans ads from 1980.

But most affectingly, the film portrays a group of beautiful women who've not only thrived in a tough, ageist field, but found ways to love themselves and embrace who they are through middle age and beyond, wrinkles and all.


On TV: "About Face: Supermodels Then and Now" debuts Monday night on HBO at 9 p.m. 

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