Kevyn Aucoin Beauty & the Beast in Me

(USA 2017)

“He was way ahead of his time. Just the way we do now with selfies and Snapchat and Facebook — he would have put the little Instagram kids to shame!”

— Amber Valletta

 

“Kevyn’s biggest motivation to succeed was his abandonment issues. He had this thought that, if I work with you and you become my friend, and I make you pretty, then you won’t abandon me. I absolutely think he was looking for a mother figure in the people that he worked with.”

— Eric Sakas

Superstar makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin lived an enviable life. He was successful doing what he loved — his work was on runways, in music videos, on award shows, and on magazine covers, at one point nine consecutive issues of Vogue. He wrote books and started a line of cosmetics.

On top of that, he hung out with models, legends, and his own idols: Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Paulina Porizkova, Susan Sarandon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Winona Ryder, Liza Minnelli, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Madonna, Cher, and Jennifer Lopez to name a few. Some of them were actual friends (I can only imagine Liza leaving voicemail for me).

Judging from the fact that they all let Aucoin record him with them backstage — on videotape, and not always made up — they must have felt something for him. An affinity? Safety? A debt? Whatever it was, it endeared him. Even in his home videos, he made them look good.

So it’s odd and downright tragic that someone who brought so much beauty to the world, never felt beautiful himself. Perhaps it had to do with his birth mother, Nelda Mae Williams, giving him up for adoption, or all the bullying he got as a teenager. He didn’t like his physical features, which were exaggerated by a condition that went undiagnosed for most of his life: acromegaly, a tumour on the pituitary gland that keeps the brain secreting growth hormones. It’s a painful condition that causes headaches and joint pain, and it got Aucoin addicted to prescription drugs.

A trove of home videos found after his death in 2002 forms the basis for Lori Kaye’s documentary, Kevyn Aucoin Beauty & the Beast in Me. He recorded everything — the aforementioned videos with celebrities, with family members and boyfriends, and even when he was alone. Kaye interviews different people from Aucoin’s life to tell his story, and the interviews range from funny (Andie MacDowell) to sad (ex boyfriend Eric Sakas discusses Aucoin’s downward spiral) to eyeroll-inducing (Williams claims Aucoin would not have been gay had she raised him).

His adoptive parents, Isidore and Thelma Aucoin, accepted him and even dropped out of their church because of its stance on homosexuality. He moved to New York City, and the rest is history.

The celebrity interviews are fun, and some are gushy. Some of the interviewees even cry. They all provide insight into the kind of guy Aucoin was. What Kaye has that makes her documentary special, though, is Aucoin’s tapes, and she incorporates footage from them into the project in a way that lets him tell his own story. It’s an often amusing one with a sad undertone. It also serves, as Cindy Crawford points out, as a time capsule — a really good one. I confess, a few scenes gave me chills.

With Andie MacDowell, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Paulina Porizkova, Gwyneth Paltrow, Amber Valletta, Isidore Aucoin, Nelda Mae Williams, Jed Root, Eric Sakas, Tina Turner, Cher, Liza Minnelli, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Lopez, Janet Jackson

Production: Putti Media

Distribution: Logo Documentary Films (USA), Dogwoof (International)

World Premiere

Screening introduced by director Lori Kaye

90 minutes
Not rated

(Directors Guild of America) B-

Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival

https://www.kevynaucoindocumentary.com

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

(UK/USA 2016)

Absolutely Fabulous, one of my fave TV shows, was fresh, edgy, and bloody hilarious in its day—the dog’s bollocks, if you will. Stateside, it’s proven to be too much for prime time network television: ABC and FOX both abandoned plans to adapt it, the latter as recently as 2009 (http://www.tvtonight.com.au/2009/05/fox-rejects-ab-fab-remake.html). As executive producer Jon Plowman noted, “[t]he trouble with doing Ab Fab in America is that it will have to end with Edina and Saffy hugging, Patsy giving up drink and drugs, and them all hugging mum. It won’t work. It’ll be too nice.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/3153677/US-remake-for-Absolutely-Fabulous.html). Hold that thought.

Since the end of its original BBC run in 1995, Ab Fab’s few revivals have consistently fallen short. I was skeptical about a full-length movie 25 years on. While not the disaster I feared it would be, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie still isn’t the knees up full Monty I wanted.

Eddy (Jennifer Saunders), Patsy (Joanna Lumley), Saffy (Julia Sawalha), even Mrs. Monsoon (June Whitfield) are the same, which is great—who doesn’t love them? They each have some good lines and some bright moments. Pats hasn’t lost her signature deadpan snarl, and the animosity between her and Saffy is still very much alive. The problem, however, is that the world has changed, which is partly why Ab Fab doesn’t have the same impact. For one thing, Eddy and Patsy’s irrelevance is really irrelevant today. They’ve become anachronisms; their antics ring more tired and pathetic than funny after awhile. Worse, everything about their fashionable world is passé. A prominent figure in the plot is supermodel…Kate Moss? The many celebrity cameos—Jerry Hall, Jean Paul Gaultier, Dame Edna, and Joan Collins to name a few—are fun, but none of them are setting any fires these days. Aside from Jon Hamm and Rebel Wilson, the faded glory here is enough to book Hollywood Squares for a month solid.

The movie has as much substance as an episode, but it’s clearly stretched to fill the time; Ab Fab episodes were only 35 minutes for a good reason. Some of the character twists, particularly Bubble (Jane Horrocks) and Marshall (Christopher Ryan), don’t make sense. Eddy gets soft toward the end: she delivers a monologue about wanting to be loved all her life, telling Saffy she loves her. Ugh. Say that again, Mr. Plowman?

I didn’t hate Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie; I got some laughs out of it. I didn’t love it, though. I could have overlooked its shortcomings had it been funnier. As it stands, I prefer Ab Fab where it fits best: in the ’90s.

91 minutes
Rated R

(AMC River East) C

http://www.foxsearchlight.com/absolutelyfabulous/

http://www.absolutelyfabulousthemovie.co.uk/showtimes