Fashionably L.A. (1999) from Tuna

Fashionably L.A. is a no-budget indie from first-time filmmaker Tamara Olson. Tamara felt compelled to tell the story of L.A. fashion models, a subject in which she has substantial expertise, since she is a fashion model in L.A. The film isn't about internationally recognized supermodels, but rather the women who work their tails off and spend inordinate amounts of money trying to "make it" in the business. This film is a mockumentary that follows five working models (one of whom is played by Tamara herself) through demeaning assignments, problems with their significant others, acting classes, auditions, etc. To emphasize the contrast between the workday drudgery of their lives and the glamour of their profession, Olson decided to shoot most of the film in B&W, but have the scenes where they were actually working in front of the public in grainy color.

Every event in the film actually happened in real life to at least one of the principals, including a "human mannequin" gig in a mall where shoppers not only heckled but threw things at the models. I must admit I never thought much about it, but this film makes it clear that these women put up with no end of indignities and abuse, and most can't even pay the rent on what they earn. In one of my favorite scenes, one of them is arrested on the street. She is in a tight low-cut dress in a bad neighborhood, the vice cops see her appointment book, and arrest her for prostitution.

Olson raised money for the film by selling shares to her friends and family. At one point, she even organized a Model Bikini Garage Sale to raise money to finish the film. (Film of the Bikini Sale is included on the DVD.) She received a great deal of advice from many people, who almost universally told her not to try and make a movie. They went on that if she did, make it a simple character piece with a simple plot, one star and few locations. Thankfully, she didn't listen and made a film which seems far more professional than expected, given that none of the cast or crew were paid.  They even went so far as to record undiscovered musicians for their sound track and music, simply because the cost of licensing music was way too expensive. 

The lead characters are human and likable, and the film is an entertaining glimpse into a world I knew little or nothing about, as created by people who know it well.


DVD INFO (left)

  • see the main commentary above


  • Tamara Olson shows buns and the side of her left breast.
  • Miranda Gibson shows breasts and buns.
  • Jenya Lano shows her breasts.
  • Ania Sikorska shows buns, and the sides of her breasts.

The Critics Vote ...

  • The only major review comes from Variety, which offered a terse pan.


The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


You know by now if the subject appeals to you. Assuming that Chris Guest's movies represent the best of the mockumentary genre and are the C-plusses on our scale, Fashionably L.A. is a solid C.

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