“The first secret of a successful modeling career is to start modeling at 5 to 10 years old,” a Russian voice blares over loudspeakers at a casting call for new models. Backstage, we watch a pair of hands wrap tape measures around the emaciated busts and waists of unsmiling, bikini-clad girls, some as young as 12. As the prepubescent hopefuls shuffle across the stage, a middle-aged man critiques their bodies, noting audibly that one has big hips and another too much acne. Girl Model
, a plodding examination of young European girls shipped off to Japan for modeling contracts, finds a compelling subject that could have been sufficiently covered in a fraction of the runtime. It’s startling that these poor families send their daughters to a foreign country to make money, and the little girls’ journey into the scummy world of modeling certainly deserves a closer look. But the blurry narrative arc, spartan editing and slow pacing doom this documentary. In the end, it’s a cautionary tale for young women who might consider pursuing a modeling career, but not much use to the rest of us.
Clinton Street Theater. 9 pm Friday-Tuesday, no showing Sunday, Nov. 30-Dec. 4