"Born Beautiful," the NBC movie at 9 tonight on Channel 4, maintains that all pretty models are not hollow-headed simps. But since the movie itself is one, the point is hardly well taken. Or given.
Rose Leiman Goldemberg wrote, and Harvey Hart directed, this tale of a 28-year-old fashion model (Erin Gray, a real Eskimo Pie) who is told by grand dame agency boss Marion Carmody (Polly Bergen, supposed to be 40, ahem) that she's only "an image" and "images wear out." So the model tries to lose herself in a prote'ge' (Lori Singer -- pretty, can't act) and later learns what life is all about and, indeed, what she is all about (and where her head is at, for good measure) when, get this, she goes to Thailand to photograph Cambodian refugees.
The model's enervated odyssey includes a brief tiff with her ex-husband. He tells her he wants a child by her. She: "What about what I want? I don't even know who I am! How could I have a child?" He: "You're too scared to want." The movie is filled with similar quotations from the pop-shrink gospel of Beverly Hills; the model has several blanko exchanges with a boyfriend, Ed Marinaro of "Hill Street Blues," who clearly is out of his element here, as it is almost elementary to note.
Director Hart seems more interested in surfaces than in bringing the tiniest shred of conviction to this story. The film does have a gloss, but it's the chilly-chic, off-putting kind; everybody lives in apartments with gallery-white walls, so that it begins to look as if they all inhabit separate remote nooks of the Museum of Modern Art. But in Hart's defense, why should anyone be interested in the pre-midlife crisis of a narcissistic zombie anyway? As one of the characters herself says, "This modeling business is so boring." That's the only point the film makes convincingly.