Review: Women age 50-plus display winning senses of ‘Advanced Style’

Lona Smithkin, from left, Joyce Carpati and Lynn Dell in "Advanced Style."
Lona Smithkin, from left, Joyce Carpati and Lynn Dell in “Advanced Style.”
(Ari Seth Cohen)

The subjects of Ari Seth Cohen’s photographs, all women over 50, have got it and flaunt it — “it” being a fearless sense of personal style. In their dramatic get-ups, they’re a kind of walking theater. And walk they do, because they live in New York.

Cohen has spun his admiring street-fashion snapshots into the popular Advanced Style blog, a book of the same name and now a film. The crowd-funded documentary, directed by Lina Plioplyte, profiles seven particularly flamboyant women whose self-confidence, creativity and joie de vivre are nothing if not inspiring. They ranged in age from 62 to 95 when filming began. Their style profiles cover the gamut from elegant pearls to spiky purple hair.

Compared with such outsize personalities, the film is a slender affair that can feel repetitive even within its short running time — more like an extended episode of a TV newsmagazine than an in-depth cinematic experience. But the way the women occupy Cohen and Plioplyte’s spotlight is a lesson in aging well, a lesson that begins with the refusal to play by the rule that says to grow older, especially for women, is to fade into the shadows.

Cohen, whose affection and deference are clear in his on-screen interactions with the women as interviewer and friend, calls his multiplatform project a “movement.” It’s one that the notoriously youth-centric fashion industry has taken note of: A few “Advanced Style” fashionistas were tapped to appear in ad campaigns. Such stamps of approval are breakthroughs, but more exhilarating is a comment from Ilona Royce Smithkin. A charming portrait artist sporting mile-long orange eyelashes, she says at 93 that she truly came into herself just a dozen years earlier.


“Advanced Style.”

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 12 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills; Regency South Coast Village, Santa Ana. Also on VOD.