Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

Tribeca Docs 'Sexy Baby' and 'Mansome' Tell Us We're In More Trouble Than We Know

Photo of Jay A. Fernandez By Jay A. Fernandez | Indiewire April 23, 2012 at 12:33PM

"Sexy Baby" is an important film. "Mansome" is not.
0
"Mansome"
"Mansome"

"Sexy Baby" is an important film. "Mansome" is not.

It may be an unfair comparison, since Morgan Spurlock and Jeremy Chilnick’s latest documentary aims for comedy over substance throughout. But both films address the impacts and effects of insecurity among women ("Sexy Baby") and men ("Mansome") and thus make for an interesting pairing. Launching them at the Tribeca Film Festival, typically strong in its documentary programming, was a smart move not only because a good portion of their content takes place in New York City, but also, at least in the case of "Sexy Baby," because the setting provides a culturally influential place to start a serious discussion (see: "Bully").

Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus’ "Sexy Baby" had its world premiere Friday night at the AMC Lowes Village 7 in front of a packed crowd with a predictably female tilt. Fest co-founder Jane Rosenthal introduced the film with the straightforward admonition that as the mother of two teenage girls, she feels this doc is “the scariest movie I watched” from the fest program. When some in the crowd chuckled, she added, “We can laugh about it, but it’s not funny.”

Point taken. The film, while offering some funny moments, is serious as hell. In "Sexy Baby," Bauer and Gradus take on the mainstreaming of pornography and the over-sexualization of women, following three storylines that contribute to the tsunami of high-pressure, 21st-century messaging.

Winnifred is 12, strikingly precocious and yet still susceptible to playing into the new expectations for how girls should think, dress and act. In her young world, the sorcery of Facebook often overwhelms her parents’ and her own better instincts.

Twenty-two-year-old Laura is a sweet, self-possessed kindergarten teacher who has built up a lifetime of self-consciousness and shame about the size and shape of her vagina. Porn-loving ex-boyfriends have only pushed her further toward the certainty that labiaplasty, or surgically re-building her most intimate parts, is the only path to happiness.

Nichole, 32, was for many years Nikita Kash, a model, stripper and porn star who has since left the business, married a loving man and formed a new professional life teaching “civilian” women how to pole dance. As she struggles to start a family, she faces the challenge of re-defining herself outside of her past and reconciling what messages she has helped to propagate in a culture now seemingly obsessed with re-making every billboard, print ad and teenaged girl in the image of porn culture.

The resulting film is harrowing, graphic and poignant — essential viewing for everyone living in a post-Internet age where boys "learn" about anatomy from hip-hop, girls feel increasingly compelled to expose and change their bodies to fit unrealistic and unhealthy icons and parents are stuck in impossible 24/7 watchdog roles. Women of all ages, several of whom were muttering how excited they were to get into the TFF screening, were well represented in an audience that was receiving the film's message with audible distress: Older women around me were muttering, “Oh my gawd,” and “Close your eyes” (and not just at the explicit imagery).

In a film with plenty of cringe-worthy moments, this one from Winnie, surely the planet's most self-assured and witty preteen, had me scared to death: “Just because I know it’s corrupting me doesn’t mean I don’t still want it.”

Oh, boy, are we in trouble.

Many documentaries tackle their subjects with passion and depth, but "Sexy Baby" really deserves a wide audience. Here’s hoping that HBO sees its potential, or some other distributor finds a way to turn the film’s subject into a crusade the way Harvey Weinstein has made "Bully" a national rallying cry. In fact, "Bully" could just as easily fit as the title of Bauer and Gradus’ remarkable film.

This article is related to: Morgan Spurlock, Mansome, Sexy Baby






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More