Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Writer / Director Thomas Mignone’s movie ‘On the Doll’ is a very unpleasant film which centers around pathological teenage sexual behavior that teeters on the edge of pretension and art. The film starts as a lot of films I’ve seen lately, showing us the end of the movie and then catching us up to that point. A cop is chasing a violent dog and accidentally fires a round from his gun and as we follow the trajectory of this bullet we see various people who we don’t know yet but who we will get to know in a little bit. This bullet has to land somewhere, but now it’s time to meet our players.

Jaron (Josh Janowicz) is a young man who works for what I’m guessing is one of those free sex advertising rags that you find floating in the street that offer various services. Josh’s job is writing the ad copy for uncle Lou (Marcus Giamatti) who takes a few bucks out his check each month so that Jaron, a child abuse victim, can free Tara (Angel Sarafyan) from her work as a peep show girl. The relationship between Jaron and Tara is never made quite clear, nor is the reason how Tara got caught up being an indentured peep show girl, but Jaron nonetheless feels responsible for her situation.

Balery (Brittany Snow) is a prostitute or something who befriends Jaron when she wants to place an advertisement to find somebody to beat up a steal from a john of hers who gets off getting cock punched. Hey, it’s all good. Circumstance has led Jaron to agree to become Balery’s partner in crime since he sees this as an opportunity to finally have enough cash to finally free Tara, so a cockpunching we will go.

Chantel (Shanna Collins) isn’t really a call girl I guess, but then I’m not nearly worldly enough to know what you call a girl who places an ad in the paper, takes your money, dresses up a like a little girl but doesn’t allow you to have sex with her. Chantel simply does this on the side as her dream is to be in artist, though her boyfriend / pimp / rock star wannabe Wes (Clayne Crawford) simply wants her to sing in the rock band and thinks her art is stupid. But these crazy kids do love each other though.

Then we have Melody (Candice Accola) and Courtney (Melody Dumont), a pair of high school minx’s who like to tease their teacher Mr. Garrett (Eddie Jemison) by exposing their panties to him while he whacks off. Mr. Garrett also works on the side as a recruiter for internet pornographer Jimmy (Paul Ben-Victor) and has convinced these crazy teens to take some pictures for the man. Alas it seems that Courtney is failing Mr. Garrett’s class, but being the stand up guy that he is, he is more than willing to help the girl out which leads to an unfortunate situation for Melody, and a far more unfortunate situation for Mr. Garrett because of what happens to Melody. Far more unfortunate.

That wayward bullet is still sailing through the air as these disparate individuals that we have just met will come together with that bullet tragically getting up close and personal with one them in particular, though there’s not a lot joy coming out of this for hardly any of them in the end.

If you were to ask me what I thought Mr. Mignone was attempting to accomplish with ‘On the Doll’ I honestly couldn’t tell you. The narrative was scattershot, though the film style was clever and striking. The movie had some rather disturbing imagery, but the way the narrative jumped around and considering the wealth of characters that we were introduced to, it was really difficult to give much of a damn about any of these kids. Not that it was necessary that we actually liked the kids as most of the people in this movie, including our abused children, were pretty distasteful to spend any time with, but it would have been nice to be actually concerned about what happens to them or what becomes of them. Not that the movie needed to be any longer than it was, but more time was needed to get underneath some of the characters we were seeing so the audience could form a bond with them. I suppose the large number of characters were needed to bridge the opening scene of the slow traveling bullet, but that sequence felt more like a gimmick than a actual legitimate plot device. It seemed to me that either the film needed to be longer to further explore these disparate characters, which I would not recommend, or pare down some of these characters so we can get closer to a few of them. I actually felt more compassion for that maggotized bird that Mignone kept cutting too than these poor confused, dysfunctional sexually abused young adults, and that’s too bad.

‘On the Doll’ has style to burn and the movie does have some substance to go with that style, it just seemed that the substance wasn’t nearly developed well enough to make us care enough about the characters. Being that this is a character driven film, this is not a good thing.

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