I am on the United Airlines flight from Shanghai to San Francisco, which is surprisingly enjoyable, since I am traveling business class and the airplane is new, with seats that allow you to stretch out with your feet high enough that you avoid swelling and pain. Which is something that happens when you are a man and you reach middle age, like I have done.
When you are a actress* and reach middle age, however, something else seems to happen. I am (intermittently) watching Nights in Rodanthe, a really forgettable (and very predictable) movie with Richard Gere and Diane Lane, a middle-aged romance of sorts. And it is a disconcerting, because Diane Lane is a great actress: One of my favorite movies is Indian Summer, and she is brilliant there, with a natural humor and fetching wickedness of expression achieved signaling subtlety and wit. This is not the case in this movie, however, because somehow her face has lost its expressiveness. And its wrinkles. And that, honestly, is a loss – both to acting and to beauty.
I really cannot understand this. Why is it that beautiful women – or, for that matter, any woman – injects Botox in their cheeks and silicone in their lips to "hide" their age? Yes, they look less wrinkled and, at least for a while, younger. But it seems to be a really slippery slope, a kind of addiction, where they very quickly become scary, like Jessica Lange in Broken Flowers, with their plastic faces and bovinely bulbous lips. The end result is the vacant expression of a storefront mannequin, great for stills but somehow alien as as soon as the picture starts to move, while the face (at least from eyebrows to upper lip) does not.
The really scary thing is that this madness is now infecting younger and younger women, with teenagers getting implants and 20-year-olds getting facial adjustments. Eventually, I suppose, all women will look the same, hiding their personalities and expressive capability behind a sleek and photogenic facade. What a loss for the male part of the population – no variety, no quality, everything palpably mediocre in its perfection.
It is deeply ironic that this movie has an subplot involving a doctor with a patient dying during a plastic surgery procedure. That is the ugly little forgotten detail – that any kind of surgery has a risk, however small, of failure, with loss of health or life as a result.
Dying to look like everyone else, in other words….
*Yes, I am aware that this happens to aging actors as well. But it is (normally) less visible, though not less reprehensible.