IN Gloss (Glyanets), The Devil Wears Prada is transplanted to Russia and inhabits a world that would chew up and spit out anyone as principled and lovely as Anne Hathaway. There are plenty of preening designers and bitchy models, but in the world of Gloss, people are bought and sold — literally — and a red-hot soldering iron is regarded as a legitimate tool for business negotiations.
Gloss tells the story of Galya, a young girl from a dirt-poor town in the coal mining badlands of the Russian interior who is mesmerized by the models she sees on TV and in fashion magazines. She dumps her alcoholic father, bitter mother and gangster boyfriend and heads for the Big Onion — Moscow. With only a single item in her portfolio, a slutty photo that she managed to post in a local rag, it’s no surprise that things don’t go smoothly when she runs up against the glitterati. But Galya, who doesn’t have the type of good looks modeling agencies in Moscow are looking for, is as tough as nails and willing to do anything, but anything, to make it to the top. This includes a stint as a talent scout and manager of a glorified brothel that pairs up models (who imitate Hollywood film stars) with members of Russia’s new rich looking for trophy wives. And suffice to say, she’s willing to go further than that.
Gloss, like The Devil Wears Prada, is intended as a comedy, but the humor is black as sin and while there is a happy ending of sorts, this rags-to-riches story leaves a trail of broken and destroyed lives along the periphery that cannot be wholly ignored and which lingers long after the film ends. It is this that makes the film interesting, for with a point of departure so similar to The Devil Wears Prada, it is hard not to feel that Gloss is just a low-budget remake.
DIRECTED BY: Andrei Konchalovsky
STARRING: Yuliya Vysotskaya (Galya), Irina Rozanova (Alina), Aleksandr Domogarov (Misha Klimenko), Yefim Shifrin (Mark), Aleksei Serebryakov (Stasis), Gennady Smirnov (Petya), Ilya Isaev (Vitek)
RUNNING TIME: 118 MINUTES
LANGUAGES: In Russian with Chinese subtitles
TAIWAN RELEASE: TODAY
It is in fact much more than that, and Gloss can be appreciated for its very different sensibility. That said, the film, quite apart from its off-hand appropriation from The Devil Wears Prada and other Hollywood movies, has the feeling of having been somewhat haphazardly cobbled together.
Yuliya Vysotskaya, who plays Galya, does a fine job in developing her personality from the ambitious, ignorant young girl from the back-of-beyond to the hardened woman making it on the fringe where the rich and the criminal gather. She manages to be constantly sympathetic, while remaining someone you would probably never want to have dealings with. But in the end, Vysotskaya’s efforts are not quite enough. The story is too loose, and the acting too uneven, to be convincing.
Director Andrei Konchalovsky is probably best-known for films such as Runaway Train (1985) with Jon Voight and Rebecca De Mornay and Tango and Cash (1989) with Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell. He also has a slew of critically acclaimed art house work to his credit. In Gloss, there are occasional sparks of the rough-and-ready power that made the low-budget Runaway Train such a masterful work, but it has none of that film’s discipline, nor the narrow focus that gave its anti-hero (Voight) a certain tragic dignity. In the end, Gloss fails to either convincingly put a layer of gloss on the world of fashion (which The Devil Wears Prada did even while pretending to remove it) or convincingly remove it.