Directed By Thomas Mignone
Starring Brittany Snow, Josh Janowicz, Clayne Crawford, Angela Sarafyan, Theresa Russell, James Russo, Paul Ben-Victor, Candice Accola, Eddie Jemison, Shanna Collins, Marcus Giamatti, Chloe Domont
Music video directors are a real hit or miss lot when it comes to a move to feature filmmaking. When they hit the really hit but conversely when they miss they really miss. On the Doll is that odd movie that falls somewhere in between.
This film is built on the stories of several female characters all tied in some way to the sex industry whether it be as a prostitute, a peep show girl, or just a Lolita type that finds herself in over her head. The big problem with this film is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it a gritty realistic portrayal of the edgy world of thugs and sex workers or is it an exploitation film looking to push buttons and disturb viewers? On the Doll never commits completely in one direction or another. It ahs thematic elements and situations that set up for either type of film but just when you think the director has made a decision he veers back the other direction.
The main story involves Jaron, a guy working for a smut publisher and using the money to buy his girlfriend’s freedom from a guy who forces her to work in a peep show. This situation leads to one of the biggest problems with this film other than its’ thematic confusion; lack of character development. We never learn why Jaron’s girlfriend Tara is “owned” by the proprietor of the peep show establishment. Some basis for her predicament would really help us as viewers invest in the characters. The director seems more preoccupied with telling the visual parts of his story rather than deepening the characters, which is what initially may lead you to believe that this is a simple exploitation film – but then comes the heavier melodrama.
Everything changes for Jaron when a prostitute named Balery shows up in his office to place an ad in the publication he works for. The ad is a request for someone to help her kill a client that happens to have access to a great deal of money. Jaron can’t print that sort of ad but he himself can consider her offer. The money will allow him to buy his girlfriend so he agrees to help Balery.
Other stories within the film involve an aspiring artist that sells herself to support her boyfriend and two teenage girls that catch a teacher masturbating and they put on a show for him. He takes them to a friend for a modeling opportunity that leads to much more than the two girls expect.
With all of the problems this film has with minimal character development and thematic issues there’s still something to this film that makes it worth a look. The film is of a lower budget but director Thomas Mignone make good use of the money and crafts a gritty washed out looking film that works fantastically with the kind of story he is trying to tell. Also, nearly every performance in the film is good, even considering the limitations of the script in some places. There is a purposeful bleakness in the film that works better coming from the look of the film and the quieter character moments than any bit of dialogue. On the Doll is a flawed film but is still worth a rent.
The anamorphic widescreen presentation here looks quite good. There is some compression grain and some purposeful and some more due to the limitation s of the source material. The muted color pallet looks great here and as I mentioned earlier sells the bleakness perfectly.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation here is well mixed and balanced if a bit bland. All the audio flows from the front speakers with only the most minimal surround speaker usage. This is a solid indie film presentation but not a demo disc.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The single disc comes packaged in a standard amaray case with black and white artwork on the cover. The art is appropriately seedy but it also may give people the idea that this film is going to feature more nudity and exploitation elements than it actually does.
The amount of bonus features on this disc actually surprised me. There’s a featurette consisting of cast and crew interviews, a making of the bird sequence featurette, some behind the scenes footage, and an alternate ending. All of this stuff should have been tied together to make a lengthy making of documentary. As individual parts it all feels really short but when all of these segments are considered together there’s some good information here. Along with all of this there are some music videos and a theatrical trailer.
On the Doll has a lot to complain about but the great performances and the style of the film make it worth a look.
Overall (Not an Average) 6.5/10
The Movie 6/10
The Video 7/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6.5/10