Young, Sexy & Dead -A Darkly Comic Satire by Philip Alderton

Director: Philip Alderton
Cast: Jeremy London, Arielle Vandenberg, Steven Berkoff, Nicholas Irons, Ivy Levan, Josh Coxx, Dawn Olivieri, Hal Havins, Vernon Wells, Sandra Teles
Running time: 93 mins

Written and directed by Philip Alderton, this blackly comic satire takes a series of amusingly dark swipes at the fashion industry. It’s essentially a one joke movie, but the way the film sustains that joke throughout is admittedly pretty impressive.

The film is presented as a documentary, by a director (Nicholas Irons) who just happened to be making a film about a rising star fashion model when her latest shoot went horribly wrong. The fly-on-the-wall footage (previously thought to have been destroyed, etc) follows Cynthia (Ivy Levan), a young model getting her big break as the face of the world’s leading fashion designer’s (Steven Berkoff as Claudio) new fall campaign.

When Cynthia accidentally overdoses on set and dies, her agent (Jeremy London), the documentary director and Claudio all decide to use her dead body in the shoot anyway, for fear of losing their investment. Meanwhile, former success Sabrina (Arielle Vandenberg), another of Robert’s clients, attempts to reboost her career by getting close to the documentary crew.

Essentially, this is Weekend at Bernie’s meets Prêt-à-Porter. Admittedly, no-one in the film is trying to pretend that Cynthia is still alive, but it does involve her dead body being lugged around a lot, so close enough.

In fairness, despite the one-joke set-up, Alderton has plenty of other satirical shots he wants to take and most of them hit their targets, whether it’s the fact that Cynthia’s dead modeling is barely distinguishable from her live modeling, the venal agent cajoling Cynthia’s mother (Sandra Teles) into signing away her dead daughter’s image rights, or more general points about capitalism and moral compromise in the name of art-slash-commerce. There’s also a good running joke about documentary filmmaking, and not interfering with the subject of the film – “They don’t think, they’re documentarians!”, and so on.

Alderton sustains a blackly comic tone throughout the film, as well as maintaining a decent pace thanks to snappy dialogue and editing. He’s also not afraid to see the concept through, taking the story to even more absurd heights, like the idea that models killing themselves for work as corpses might catch on as a trend. On a similar note, the film contains a fart gag that is so perfectly timed and executed that you wonder if the entire film wasn’t just an excuse to get to that gag in the first place.

The performances are solid across the board. Berkoff in particular is clearly enjoying himself as the extremely camp fashion designer, while London makes Robert charismatic and charming enough to stay likeable, despite his actions. In addition, Vandenberg is good value as Sabrina (she has a good line in looks to camera), while Levan does some excellent corpse acting, no mean feat in the circumstances, given how much she’s moved around.

In fairness, the mock-doc conceit doesn’t really work and there are various lapses in logic, such as the fact that it’s never entirely clear just why the footage would have been purportedly destroyed, since the story is ultimately out in the open. However, that issue aside, this is a darkly comic, gleefully absurd and frequently amusing satire that hits its targets with surprising accuracy.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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  • Matthew Turner

    A lifelong film fanatic, Matthew Turner (FilmFan1971) is a London-based critic and author, as well as the co-host of Fatal Attractions, a podcast on erotic thrillers. His favourite film is Vertigo and he hasn't missed an episode of EastEnders since 1998.