Sundance boasts some of the year's finest documentaries, but Katharina Otto's
"Beautopia" isn't one of them. The long-winded look into the careers
of four aspiring teenage supermodels offers little insight into either the
modeling business or the motivations of the girls themselves.
At the outset of the 103-minute film, Otto shares some interesting points
to explain that modeling is not merely another frivolous and amusing documentary
subject. The stakes are much higher. Modeling is the only profession where
the average salary of women exceeds that of men. Sixty-five percent of teenage
girls want to model.
Instead of probing these intriguing issues, Otto instead decided to take
the "Pumping Iron" route and simply follow the models around to
shoots and restaurants in New York, Paris, Milan and Hamburg. This method
reveals surprisingly little about the girls' personalities and the few backroom
glimpses seem to provide few shocking disclosures about the modeling business.
Douglas Keeve's "Unzipped" exposed the fashion industry in a much
more effective manner and Otto can only strive to keep pace. Unfortunately,
Hampering the film's pacing even more so is the far-too-frequent sing-songy
voice-over by Otto, whose broken English serves less as a narrative device
than a constant annoyance. If only Otto had held her tongue and allow the
models to speak more, "Beautopia" would have been a far richer