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DVD Review: On the Doll

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I know this film is meant to stir up something inside of me. On the Doll's central characters are involved in/exploited by the sex trade, and we are supposed to be disgusted by what we see, feel sorry for what they have to do, or something. I don't know. After watching the movie, I found it difficult to really feel anything about them.

The underlying concept does have a place within cinema, and it could be used to great effect, but here it just falls flat. By the same token, On the Doll is not a bad movie, but it fails to reach as far as it tries so hard to. It suffers from a slight air of self-importance while never digging as deep as it would need to genuinely affect me as the viewer.

The plot is built from three primary threads woven together. The main thread concerns Jaron (Josh Janowicz), who works as a copywriter of sorts for a porn magazine, which is just one of many seedy businesses run by a man named Jimmy. He takes ads from people and rewrites them so they make sense, much to the chagrin of his boss, who just wants the ads out the door to the printers. The young man was the victim of sexual abuse (it is his story that spawned the title) who also feels an obligation to a young woman named Tara, who is forced to work at a peep show run by, you guessed it, Jimmy. He has a deal worked out to eventually buy her freedom.

Jaron's tale is crossed with that of Balorie (Brittany Snow), a call girl and dancer who wishes to place an ad seeking help in ripping off a cheap client. Jaron is taken with her and agrees to help himself, in exchange for money that will get him closer to freeing Tara.

Yet another tale focuses on Chantal, a budding artist and door-to-door prostitute who is blinded by her love for self-centered "musician" Wes, who is most interested in his own "career." Finally, there are Courtney and Melody, a couple of high school students who are lured into a "modeling agency" – again run by Jimmy – by their health teacher.

On the Doll plays a bit like a cross between Hard Candy and Pulp Fiction, while not coming anywhere near the quality of either of those films. It deals with sexual victims and predators like Hard Candy, and it plays with the timeline and uses multiple threads a la Pulp Fiction. Unlike those two films, this one is let down by a script that barely scratches the surface. Any one of these stories would have been a fine film on its own, but the screenplay by writer/director Thomas Mignone is watered down. It is too intent on its attempt to shock that it forgets to involve.

As for the performances? They are mediocre at best. All of the players dive into their roles with such a deadly serious earnestness that they become overly melodramatic, thus robbing them of the realism that is so sorely sought. It doesn't help that the script forces them through all sorts of hoops to arrive at the climax that wraps everything up.

Audio/Video. The technical specifications of the DVD are fine. The washed out color palette is captured nicely and the audio is always front and center. Nothing to complain about here. The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and the audio is in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0.

Extras.

  • Behind the Scenes Clips. Nothing special here, just some set footage at a couple of the locations, including Andy's apartment and the sex shop. (10 minutes)
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes with Director's Commentary. Again, nothing special here, at least nothing that would have changed the film. Four or five scenes with an explanation from Thomas Mignone. (8 minutes)
  • Alternate Ending with Director's Commentary. Essentially, this is a shortened version of the actual ending with a little less wrap-up.(2.33 minutes)
  • Cast & Crew Interviews. I admit to not really watching these, but it is one long clip with interviews with the director and the primary cast members about the topic of the film and their characters. (10 minutes)
  • Making of the Bird Sequence. This was pretty interesting. It looks at the creation of the fake bird and the adding of the maggots, including miking the bird for the sounds.
  • Music Video by OTEP. I like this song. OTEP are interesting artists who always takes it to the limit. I have seen them live and it is an intense experience. The song is called "Crooked Spoons."
  • Music Video by Feersum Ennjin. This cut did not do much for me at all. Eh. To each their own.
  • Original Trailer.

Bottom line. They tried, I will give them that. While it did not get to me as I am sure they hoped it would, it is at least worth giving a quick look see.

Mildly Recommended.

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