×

Youth Knows No Pain

Doc subjects America's anti-aging obsession to an intimate, often unflattering closeup.

With:
With: Sherry Mecom, Lyndsay Bertie, Julia Allison, Franklin Rose, Erica Rose, Norman Deesing, Gary Baldassarre.

“Youth Knows No Pain” subjects America’s anti-aging obsession to an intimate, often unflattering closeup, and with an appreciable lack of vanity, director Mitch McCabe also holds up her own face — lines, imperfections and all — for the camera’s scrutiny. McCabe’s unique perspective as a plastic surgeon’s daughter informs this lively, candid and thoughtful piece, which avoids the fashionable alarmism of so many social-issue docs as it weighs the costs and benefits of wrinkle creams, breast implants and Botox injections and allows viewers to decide for themselves. Airing Aug. 31 on HBO, the highly accessible pic could operate well in theaters.

It’s entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that the bulk of the film’s interviewees — many of whom have gone under knife or needle — will strike viewers as shallow, uneducated, beauty-obsessed rubes, as evidenced by derisive snorts and comments overheard at the pic’s CineVegas screening. But McCabe never condescends to subjects like fiftysomething Dallas resident Sherry Mecom, a warm, friendly, rather spacey woman who has no problem speaking openly about her recent cosmetic enhancements or baring her new and “beautifully formed” breasts (per her adoring husband) for the camera.

Of the many women and few men McCabe meets (she began interviews in 2002) — most of whom are oncamera for only a few minutes, offering their views on the fear of aging and the importance of looking youthful and attractive — Mecom gets the most screen time and leaves the strongest impression. Running a close second is sculptor/art teacher/aspiring actor Norman Deesing, who, through the miracle of cosmetic surgery, now bears an astonishing and highly marketable resemblance to Jack Nicholson.

At one point, Deesing tells McCabe, “You’ve let yourself go, and you know it” — a shockingly blunt comment, but one that doesn’t feel out of place in this context. Throughout the film, McCabe foregrounds her own experience, venting her insecurities about her appearance as well as her highly ambivalent views on the matter of artificial improvements; she confesses she bought her first wrinkle concealer at age 13 but has avoided having work done, despite her exposure to her late father’s practice.

Indeed, McCabe’s film doubles as a loving portrait of her dad (shown at work in his consulting room in the pic’s ample homevideo footage), whom she says never once criticized her physical appearance. Offering a sharp contrast is popular Houston-based plastic surgeon Dr. Franklin Rose, interviewed here with his model daughter, Erica, who says her dad once asked if her breasts were asymmetrical.

McCabe’s personal approach frees the pic from any obligation to be a comprehensive study of its subject (impossible, given the fleet 88-minute running time), though her natural curiosity does lead her and the viewer down many an entertaining avenue. Among the more bizarre subcultures she encounters is a New York group for Botox hopefuls, where she learns the rather alarming fact that anyone with a medical degree can inject the stuff.

Elsewhere, “Youth Knows No Pain” smartly and amusingly sends up the $60 billion anti-aging industry, attaching visual pricetags to the many beauty products on display, very few of which actually are effective. Pic also riffs on the ways in which a once-taboo subject has become ubiquitous in popular culture, from shows like “Nip/Tuck” to celebrity dermatologists like Dr. Bobby Buka.

Shot and edited by McCabe herself, the technically superb production makes wise use of animation for some of the surgery sequences, though the bloodiest and most blood-curdling operation — a hair transplant — is shown in unflinching live-action.

Youth Knows No Pain

Production: An HBO Documentary Films presentation of an Open Pictures and Chipped Nail Polish production. Produced by Mitch McCabe, Linda Chiu, Kathleen Rosenbloom. Executive producers, Dale Rosenbloom, Seth Willenson, W. Wilder Knight II. Co-producers, Elena Parker, Carmen Cuba, Ellen Killoran. Directed by Mitch McCabe.

Crew: Camera (color), McCabe; editors, Michael Taylor, McCabe; music, David Majzlin; re-recording mixer, Tom Efinger. Reviewed at CineVegas Film Festival (Pioneer Documentaries), June 14, 2009. (Also in SilverDocs Film Festival.) Running time: 88 MIN.

With: With: Sherry Mecom, Lyndsay Bertie, Julia Allison, Franklin Rose, Erica Rose, Norman Deesing, Gary Baldassarre.

More Film

  • The True Adventures of Wolfboy

    Film Review: 'The True Adventures of Wolfboy'

    Most teenage boys would kill for a few whiskers, but not Paul. At 13, he already has a full face of hair, and his peers treat him like a freak for it. So, too, does Martin Krejčí’s “The True Adventures of Wolfboy,” although the movie argues that perhaps being a freak isn’t such a bad [...]

  • 'Top Gun: Maverick' Trailer: Tom Cruise

    Tom Cruise Drops First Trailer for 'Top Gun: Maverick' at Comic-Con (Watch)

    Tom Cruise made a surprise appearance at San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday to hype the forthcoming “Top Gun: Maverick” and receive mass adoration from Hall H. “I felt it was my responsibility to deliver for you,” Cruise told the crowd, tugging local heartstrings by reminiscing on the original “Top Gun” shoot in Downtown San Diego. [...]

  • Tribeca Film Institute

    Tribeca Film Institute, Pond5 Announce Latest Indie Film Grantees (EXCLUSIVE)

    Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) and Pond5 have once again teamed up to offer microgrants to indie filmmakers and artists. The grants, which go as high as $7,500, are intended to help storytellers during “in-between” phases of their projects, such as research, festival travel or community screenings. They’re the kind of unexpected costs that can lead [...]

  • On-Location Filming Slides 3.9% in Los

    On-Location Filming Slides 3.9% in Los Angeles in Second Quarter

    Held down by a lack of soundstage space, total on-location filming in greater Los Angeles declined 3.9% in the second quarter to 8,632 shoot days, permitting agency FilmLA reported Thursday. “Although our latest report reveals a decline in filming on location, local production facilities tell us that they are operating at capacity,” said FilmLA president [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    U.S. Box Office, Movie Admissions, Ticket Price Fall in Second Quarter

    U.S. movie admissions slid 2.5% in the second quarter of 2019 to 347.8 million, with box office receipts declining 3.8% to $3.22 billion on the heels of a record-setting year, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) reported Thursday. The overall ticket price for the quarter slipped 1.3%, or 12 cents, to $9.26, compared to [...]

  • Terminator: Dark Fate

    'Terminator: Dark Fate' Will Definitely Be R-Rated, Tim Miller Reveals at Comic-Con

    “Terminator: Dark Fate” is not just a reboot of a beloved franchise, it’s a return to hardcore form that will receive an R rating from the MPAA. Announced at San Diego Comic Con’s opening Hall H panel on Thursday, the move is a departure from the PG-13 status of recent reboot attempts like “Terminator: Genisys” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content