IRIS (2015)

"The Geriatric Starlet of Fashion"


What You Need To Know:

The documentary IRIS follows Iris Apfel, a 93-year-old fashion icon who’s become known as a “Rare Bird of Fashion.” Her style combines exotic fabrics with bold, colorful accessories. Told as a young lady she wasn’t pretty, Iris agreed, and decided to pursue a career outside the limelight. That career not only included fashion, but also interior design and art, such as re-designing part of the White House for nine presidents. Along with husband, Carl, she’s traveled around the globe, gathering handmade fabrics, flamboyant jewelry and novel decor filling two homes and a large storage warehouse.

IRIS brings a smile to the face from the very first scene to the last. The title character’s humor is witty but sharp. Although the main storyline is Iris’s career, her marriage to Carl is the story that touches the heart. Also inspiring is seeing a woman who could have retired decades ago still finding ways to be creative. Iris and Carl mention how God blessed them and things they would like to do if the Lord allows. However, IRIS contains some foul language, so caution is advised.


(C, B, CapCap, Ro, Ho, LL, S, A, M) Light Christian, moral worldview with strong capitalist elements where characters mention “God was good” and “if the Lord lets me” in a couple of scenes, with some Romantic individualism and a few homosexual references to effeminate men dressed with female accessories; 13 obscenities and profanities, including two instances of the “f” word; no violence; the word “stripper” is mentioned in regards to a jacket and effeminate men wear female accessories; no nudity; a piece of hollowed out furniture is said to be “full of booze” inside; no smoking or drugs; and, some light iconoclastic attitudes and woman says life is dull so you might as well have fun with the way you dress.

More Detail:

IRIS is a documentary that follows the life of Iris Apfel, a flamboyant 93-year-old fashion icon who has become known as the Rare Bird of Fashion. IRIS is entertaining throughout, and shows its title character having a strong, lengthy marriage, but it’s marred by some foul language.

Her style is to combine exotic fabrics with bold and colorful accessories. With an air of despair, she reflects on the current state of homogenized fashion, complaining about the sameness of everything. No one strives for individuality anymore, she says. Huge circular-rimmed glasses adorn her wrinkled face, which she absolutely refuses to ever smooth over with plastic surgery. “What for?” she asks rhetorically. Told as a young lady that she wasn’t pretty, Iris agreed, and decided to pursue a career outside of the limelight. In a way, not being pretty was a blessing in disguise. Women who used their looks to get by in life suddenly found themselves lost when their looks faded. However, Iris has managed to stay relevant well into old age. “I don’t happen to like pretty, but most of the world is not with me,” she wittingly explains.

Always a clotheshorse, Iris’ career began in her 20s, spanning not only the world of fashion, but also interior design and art. She helped decorate the White House under several presidents, from Truman in the late 1940s through Reagan in the 1980s. Museums across the world have benefitted from her eclectic tastes, as well as the Mississippi State House. Along with husband, Carl, she’s traveled around the globe, gathering hand-made fabrics, flamboyant jewelry, and novel decor that fill two homes and a large storage warehouse in Manhattan. She and Carl keep the Christmas trains running 6-8 months of the year in their Florida house, a place that’s “perfect for two children” a friend observes. Though she doesn’t have the stamina for long trips anymore, she still enjoys hitting the mom and pop shops of Manhattan in search for her latest treasures.

Carl urges Iris to slow down and pace herself. “That’s not her personality though,” he admits. He wears his concern for Iris on his sleeve, and she for him. They’ve been married since 1948, after all. Both have their share of health issues, and Carl is confined to a wheelchair most of the time as he celebrates his centennial birthday during the course of filming. Iris understands she can’t take anything with her when she dies and prefers to donate certain pieces of her collection to museums rather than not know where they will eventually go. “Matters of health are more important. As you get older, you realize all these other things. . .” she trails off and snaps as if it would make them disappear. Her style may be rare, but her attitude in the materialistic industry of fashion may be rarer. She loves the beauty of worldly treasures, but manages to keep things in proper perspective. “Life is gray and dull. You might as well have fun with the way you dress and amuse people.”

IRIS is one of those movies that brings a smile to the face from the very first scene all the way until the last. Apfel’s sense of humor can only be described as sharp and witty, appropriately matching her outward appearance. Carl happily goes along with her antics and allows her to dress him up in similar eccentric fashion. Throughout the documentary, he’s seen wearing loud pants, hats, and shirts, and he randomly breaks out into an old standard tune as a commentary on whatever flurry of activity surrounds him. Although the main storyline is about Iris’ career, the story of her marriage to Carl is the one that reaches the heart. Also inspiring is seeing a woman who could have retired decades before still pursuing her career and constantly finding new ways to be creative.

Some foul language is used throughout the documentary, mostly taking God’s name in vain. The “f” word is used a couple of times, and the “D” word once. Brief references are made to alcohol and strippers. Surprisingly, Iris and Carl seem to believe in a universe where God is the Supreme Being. More than once they talk about how God blessed them or things they would like to do if the Lord allows. This movie is not suitable for children especially based on the foul language. Parental discretion is advised.

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