Make Me Up

With Make Me Up, pop ironist Rachel Maclean invites us into another darkly hilarious world in which the candy-coloured computer generated images contrast sharply with the brutal satire within

Film Review by Jamie Dunn | 15 Oct 2018
  • Make Me Up
Film title: Make Me Up
Director: Rachel Malean
Starring: Rachel Maclean, Christina Gordon, Colette Dalal Tchantcho
Release date: 1 Nov

In Rachel Maclean’s first feature film, a group of futuristic Barbies are forced to compete against each other to win a few portions of smiley face ham slices. Lording over this sadistic game is a pink-haired psychopath, played by Maclean herself, who speaks entirely in pompous non-sequiturs from seminal BBC series Civilisation. Oh, and this all takes place in a girlie palace modeled on St Peter's Seminary, but with breasts for door handles and Orwellian eyeballs that dangle menacingly from the ceiling. Anyone worried that Maclean would temper her hallucinatory style in her move from the gallery to the cinema (and TV) can rest assured: Make Me Up is as fiercely intelligent and wonderfully weird as her video work.

Our surrogate is Siri, who’s birthed into this loopy dystopian fantasy through a gelatinous pink membrane that makes her look like a gooey Venus de Milo. This isn’t the only reference to art history you’ll find in Maclean's film. Siri and co are forced to recreate tableaux inspired by classic (and by default sexist) scenes from art through the centuries. Her one ally in this bubblegum-coloured nightmare is Alexa, who’s out to subvert the system.

Like all of Maclean’s work, Make Me Up is overwhelming. Your eyes are saturated by her oppressivly bright computer-rendered universe. The costumes and art direction, also by Maclean, are dense with detail and meta-commentary. Her work would prove bludgeoning if it weren't so viciously hilarious. Plus, as one of the premiere chroniclers of our oversaturated, internet-addicted world, Maclean’s maximalism is the point.

As a satire of social media culture and the beauty industry, it’s savage. But it’s art historians who should feel most uncomfortable during Make Me Up; between this and Hannah Gatsby’s Nanette, the canon gets a much-needed kicking. After watching you might feel like storming your nearest gallery and rearranging the hierarchy – once your retinas adjust back to dull reality, that is.

Make Me Up screens on BBC 4 on 4 Nov

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