Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mitch McCabe's MAKE ME YOUNG explores our growing penchant for plastic surgery

Is it remotely possible to have a "balanced" look at the anti-aging industry (plastic surgery, injectables, laser treatments, wrinkle creams, hair transplants -- and the people who push them)? On the basis of MAKE ME YOUNG, the recent documentary, just out on DVD via Cinema Libre Studio (it made its debut via HBO), the answer is, "Sure" -- but you'll have think for yourself, disagree with many of the participants, and maybe even surprise yourself by going somewhat against your own better judgment as you watch this alternately fascinating, flabbergasting and exasperating little film. Does it reflect America today and our preoccupation with youth-at-any-cost?  Absolutely.

In it, director/producer/editor/co-writer Mitch McCabe, shown at left, herself a daughter of a plastic surgeon (albeit one who came to that professions by first helping victims of war, accident and sickness), opens up about her own obsession with aging and where this might have come from ("My obsession was my dad's profession"). She then travels the country -- meeting, interviewing and making friends with various doctors and their patients, and talking with "experts" on this subject.  These include the professionals, of course, but also editors of fashion magazines, a "Creative Director" of a upscale clothing store, a self-styled consumer advocate and various hawkers of skin creams. You will have take their words with the proverbial grain-of-salt, but together they paint a picture of a society willing to forgo this month's rent in order to have the necessary Botox injections.

There are many ways to try to fool mother nature, and this movie covers a lot of them -- such as the boob job we see on one of the saddest of our interviewees, Texas-based Sherry (above), who has lots of work done in lots of area and claims to be happy as a clam. For all of her southern gush, however, she seems, as seen here, obsessed only with her desire for a better appearance. Another "victim" who's into fooling, in the bloodiest section of the movie, is Gary (below), getting a hair transplant.

Mitch then meets yet another daughter of a plastic surgeon, who is currently posing for skin magazines (Daddy didn't know during the filming, but he probably knows by now. Does he care?). We discover all sorts of anti-aging devices, like this little job (below) that looks like an electric shaver but, instead of hair, gets rid of wrinkles. Or so its propronents claim.

The movie is supremely anecdotal; we meet a few too many characters to get to know most very well. Yet this also gives us an a wider overview and lets us take home the movie's message, which is finally picked up and run with by the movie-maker herself: If all this makes you feel good, just give in and do it.  And so she surely does.  

The craziest, saddest moment in the film comes when a lovely blond woman (not Mitch's BFF, above, left) looks at her reflection in the mirror and declares, "It's just disgusting!"  At this point, the viewer may want to scream, "But you're beautiful! How crazy can you be?" The character who grounds the movie, however, is Dee, an early patient of Ms McCabe's dad, who was given new breasts after a double mastectomy. We see old footage of her at the time and then nearly 20 years later. Then and now, she seems the ideal plastic-surgery candidate: She actually needs it. Yet she remains imminently sane, funny, smart and real -- rather than someone clutching desperately to a fading youth. (That's a photo of the late Dr. McCabe, below, showing off a "boob" pillow sculpture that one of his patients had made for him.)

Offering up a sad statistic, McCabe alerts us to the fact that more and more of our new, young doctors are opting for this industry rather than becoming primary-care physicians.  The money is much better, of course, so why not? And since more and more of us seem to prefer the kind of medicine that caters to the needs of our exterior rather than our interior -- well, sure, come on in:
The doctor will see you now.

Make Me Young, which debuted on DVD last week, is available for sale now and -- eventually, we hope -- for rental.

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