OMG, you people suggested Doctor Zhivago (1965) and now I think you have a death wish for me! Over three hours of ’60s bouffants and Russian fur hats, with pathetic costumes and heapin’ helpings of misogyny and boring old war.
Supposedly set during the 1910s through the 1930s, this film is 100% in styled in the 1960s when it was filmed. Sorry, Phyllis Dalton, I know the Academy gave you the Oscar for Best Costume Design, but they clearly weren’t judging on historical accuracy. Yeah, sure, the “look” of Doctor Zhivago was super popular at the time in contemporary clothes (and still is, in some ways) with fur trim, oversized sweaters, and asymmetrical closures in high fashion being called ‘Zhivago’ style. But that’s not my issue. I’m irritated that that costumes have so little to do with the historical period of the, y’know, history of the time period the movie is set in.
Alas, in this giant flick, the Russian Revolution is incoherently enacted, as is World War I. Despite three hours of footage directed by David Lean, with all the wide, sweeping vistas and hundreds of extras in uniform, I’m no more clear on WTFrock happened during this part of history than if I cruised through Wikipedia (actually, Wikipedia helped more; the movie was just prettier).
So, OK, if the history is just a backdrop that we’re supposed to ignore, then the characters should be fascinating, right? Well, IDK, maybe they were back in 1965, but they don’t hold up today for me, especially from a feminist POV (which makes me think this was a retrograde flick in its own time, hello, Betty Friedan, much?).
Contemporary reviews praise Julie Christie for the role of Lara as mesmerizing and pivotal. But I see her as pathetic and weak. Lara is just a sad trope, a woman who is admired and used for her beauty and nothing more. In the first scenes, she says something about studying and working on a scholarship, but super-fast, she finds she can advance by trading on her sexuality with an older man, even if her affair sends her mother to a suicide attempt (though mom was the one who set up Lara and the old guy, UGH). She briefly fights against that man’s rapey actions by trying to shoot him, but it’s a minor incident, quickly passed over.
Then she heads to the war zone to follow her new husband, but doesn’t really find him. So instead, Lara has an affair with the eponymous Zhivago, who’s married to his cousin. Wut? Whatever. All Lara wants is sex or love or validation from men, I guess. How old fashioned. She’s just a cipher for these men’s desires. Or at least that’s how David Lean directed her or Boris Pasternak wrote her in the original 1957 novel.
And the men aren’t much better — they’re cardboard caricatures. They’re either horndogs (and poets on the side; those go together) or political revolutionaries. This makes for a really boring film, nor is there much sex to keep the fires going. There’s about two creepy sex scenes and maybe two romantic ones, nothing explicit, just implied, snooooooooze.
Since the film has nothing much to recommend it IMNSHO, let’s just get down with the snark. Here’s my rundown of the crazy 1960s bouffants, giant fur hats, and other anachronisms in Doctor Zhivago!
Lara’s Black Fur Beret
Our heroine is introduced in the film wearing black fur and bangs. The director will be using this kind of closeup of her eyes A LOT, so get used to it. She’s sexy and irresistible or something, I guess.
Moscow’s Crappiest Dressmaker
Lara comes home to her mom’s dressmaking shop, where everyone slaves to make historically inaccurate clothing.
Lara’s Schoolgirl Bouffant
Yeah, sure, whatever. I’ll give this a pass — EXCEPT FOR THE BOUFFANT.
Lara’s Dinner-With-Future-Sugar-Daddy Bouffant & Bow
Sure, young girls and teenagers would wear their hair down during this era, but here’s what it would actually look like:
No bouffants in action, and the bows are the only big thing going.
Tonya’s “Barbie at the Moscow Station” Suit
Yuri Zhivago’s cousin, Tonya, returns home (the first time we see her as an adult in the film), and she sure does stand out at the train station. Close, but nope, not right for the period, as you could guess.
Lara’s Slutty Red Dress & Bouffant Updo
Did her sugar daddy provide a dress that’s 10 years out of date? Because, if I’m extremely generous, this red dress is similar in silhouette to an 1900s evening gown.
You know what she should be wearing? Does anyone care?
The mirror shows off her bouffant in all its glory. How many fake hairpieces are up there?
Tonya’s Slinky ’60s Edwardian Gown
This also looks nothing like the 1910s evening gowns pictured above. I can give Tonya’s hair a pass for being randomly Gibson Girl-esque though.
Lara’s Innocent Bouffant & Bow With Her Fiance
I guess going back to the hair-down-with-bow shows she’s remorseful about the whole sugar-daddy thing. Whatever!
Tonya’s Massive ’60s Updo at the Ball
Tonya and Yuri are going to announce their engagement at a fancy ball, so everyone breaks out the Aqua-Net and 1960s hairpieces. It’s all-bouffants, all the time! Tonya’s dress is probably the most historically accurate costume in the whole film, but her hair is so distracting, I can’t even.
Lara’s Little Ball Bouffant
Lara isn’t dressed up, so she just slaps her hair into an everyday bouf’ and is good to go.
Old Lady With Crappy Hair & Gown at the Ball
How is this dress not something they pulled off the rack from a ’60s department store? How is that not the same hairstyle any woman of her age would wear to a fancy event in 1965?
A Plethora of Very ’60s Hair at the Ball – Old Lady With Wiglet
I wasn’t even trying to ID all this bad hair. It jumped out at me. For a movie with a huge budget, I feel like very little of it was spent on costumes and zero on the extras.
A Plethora of Very ’60s Hair at the Ball – Lady in a Layered Cut
Mom hair, dental assistant hair, WHATEVER, IT’S NOT EDWARDIAN.
A Plethora of Very ’60s Hair at the Ball – Woman Wearing the Same Style of Wig My Southern Grandmothers Wore in the ’60s
Both my grandmothers in Florida wore wigs and hairpieces well into the 1970s because it was quite the fashion, and as a kid, I thought this was super-cool because my mom was a cross between a hippie and a no-nonsense working woman (meaning, her hair was wash-‘n-wear and so was mine!). I loved playing with grandmom’s wigs and going to the beauty parlor with grandma!
Yeah, my grandmothers back in the ’60s and ’70s were not wearing 1910s hairstyles.
A Plethora of Very ’60s Hair at the Ball – Lady in a Bouffant & a Cheap Tinsel Tiara
OK then, what should all these ladies’ hair really like? Here are some examples…
And here’s what the hair does look like…
Tonya’s White Fur Hoodie
Since she’s wearing it on the way home from the ball, this is probably the second most historically accurate outfit in the film.
The Fam in Their 1960s Clothes & Hair
I haven’t even mentioned Yuri’s ’60s ‘do — men’s 1910s hair would be slicked back and shorter. His uncle and aunt look a little more historically accurate, but they don’t get much screentime.
Lara’s Giant Kerchief (You Know There’s a Bouffant Under There), Part 1
During WWI, Lara’s hubby Pasha goes missing, so she becomes a field nurse. Much kerchief action ensues.
Lara’s Giant Kerchief (You Know There’s a Bouffant Under There), Part 2
C’mon, how big does that kerchief need to be? I have long hair, I’ve wrapped fabric around my head, but it’s never looked that gigantic! Girlfriend, please.
Lara’s Peasant-Style Everyday Bouffant
Yuri meets up with Lara, they run a field hospital, she also has a farm or something, wearing her very-not-peasanty version of traditional Russian peasant clothes.
Lara’s Little Grey Fur Hat
It’s cold (duh, it’s Russia). It’s also the 1960s, I guess.
Tonya’s Modern Bra Showing Through Her 1910s Shirt
It’s not that I expected any of the women to be wearing corsets (when they should be), but between the costume designer, director, and cinematographer, couldn’t they have made sure that the outline of her modern bra didn’t show? Pretty please?
Lara’s Endless Bouffantery
Lara’s Little Brown Fur Hat & Matching Sweater
I guess the sweaters are supposed to be 1920s sportswear. The film doesn’t have a lot of clues about how much time is passing historically, just some unnamed war scenes.
Lara’s Grey Sweater & Bouffant
These sweaters, though, are off-the-rack 1960s.
Lara’s Big Fur Hat
Not a historical classic — the traditional Russian fur hat (called an ushanka) has ear flaps that can be tied up on the sides.
Lara With Her Hair Down!
Because sometimes, you just get tired of all that Aqua-Net out in the Ural Mountains.
Lara’s White Sweater & Bouffant
I give up.
Lara’s Big Fur Hat, Reprise
Nice lip gloss.
Lara in Mourning
Keeping it real for Yuri’s funeral.
Lara in the 1930s, Supposedly
Searching through orphanages for her and Yuri’s child, she’s lost everything — EVEN HER BOUFFANT! TRAGEDY!
Have you made it through Doctor Zhivago’s historical inaccuracies?