A non-fiction inquiry into the toxic ramifications of the U.S.'s obsession with female beauty, Darryl Roberts' America the Beautiful certainly doesn't lack for a worthy topic, nor for endless avenues of investigation. Choice subject matter, however, only gets a film so far, and the director's everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to tackling the myriad ways that women are beset by unreasonable and/or dangerous body-image ideals ultimately does as much harm as good.
Roberts is well-trained in the Michael Moore school of documentary filmmaking, using a personal story - his break-up with a potential wife over superficial qualms with her looks - as the impetus for a wide-ranging analysis of the modeling industry, the cosmetics trade, magazine advertising, the field of plastic surgery, and, for good measure, a tragic tale of bulimia to cap things off in suitably wrenching, cautionary-tale fashion. His strategy is to cram in as many facts and tidbits as 105 minutes will allow in order to present an overwhelmingly damning case against our cultural priorities. Frustratingly, though, his film is sometimes overwhelming less because of its convincing conclusions than simply because of its mountain of cursorily handled arguments.