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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 07.06.08] movie review drama

Year: 2007
Director: Thomas Mignone
Writer: Thomas Mignone
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 5 out of 10

My first thought at seeing the trailer for On the Doll was that it seemed to be borrowing a page from David Slade's brilliant Hard Candy and to an extent, Thomas Mignone does follow the same broad theme of sexual abuse and sexual predators. The films share something else as well: a unique visual style though wile Slade's is clean and bright, Mignone's is dark and dirty.

The film tells the unrelated stories of a number of individuals, all of whom appear to be little more than teens, somehow involved in the sex trade. Chantal is an escort, working to make money to support her boyfriend's dream of recording an album. Melody and Courtney are high school students lured by a teacher into an on-line porn site while Balery, a call girl and dancer, employs Jaron to help her exact revenge on a cheap customer. Individually, the ideas for these stories are all interesting but they suffer from a number of problems ranging from poor acting to painful dialog.

One of the film's major drawbacks is the script. Written by Mignone himself, the film tries hard to tell important stories but it only manages to touch the surface, providing interesting ideas that are never fully developed. The dialog itself is juvenile and awkward and though this can be seen as somewhat realistic and an argument can be made that that is how kids in those situations might really talk, I didn't buy into it. To make matters worse, a number of the back stories and situations feel forced, as if they were written to make a point rather than tell a story, and as a result, the characters are flat.

The acting too leaves a lot to be desired. Brittany Snow, the biggest name on the cast listing, is only appealing when she angrily beats on her victim in a scene which is brutal out of context but surprisingly un-emotional when seen as part of the film. Shanna Collins provides an interesting dynamic between professional door-to-door call girl and woman blinded by love but perhaps the most interesting, engaging and best played storyline is that of the school girls portrayed by Candice Accola and Chloe Domont. Lost girls caught between innocence and sexual awakening, they are drawn into the twisted world of the sex trade by a man who showers them with the wrong kind of attention. Their fall feels real and urgent and their story, though its time is limited, is the most well developed and complete and as a result, the best of the script.

The story itself is not completely successful but one of the things that was apparent in the trailer and which stands out throughout the film is the visuals. Mignoe's style is an interesting mix of saturated colours and unusual visuals. There is a feeling of the impending downfall which is wonderfully communicated through the set design, colour and framing of the scenes. Mignoe has a talent for capturing the ugliness in beauty, something which lends itself well to the story he is telling here. There are also a number of beautiful visuals but unfortunately, they feel grafted onto the story rather than a natural part of the narrative and the opening scene of a dead bird is a perfect example. Oddly beautiful on its own, it adds little to the story and the return to it throughout the film is completely unnecessary.

Thomas Mignone is known for telling interesting stories with his music videos and though On the Doll is a good first attempt at a full length feature, it doesn't completely work. There are too many stories, almost as if he could not decide which one to tell and the film would have been more successful if he had chosen one (my vote is with the school friends) and expanded on it. The film also feels like a greatest hits package, almost as if Mignone is trying to squeeze in all of his tricks rather than save a few for his second feature.

Although overall disappointing, the film does suggest that Mignone is a talented director with a unique and appealing style. I'm curious to see what he digs up for his second feature though I hope he seriously considers directing someone else's script.

[Special thanks to Marina for providing the review; cross-posted on Row Three]

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Hal Goldman (10 years ago) Reply

A larded use of content considered taboo and shocking by the general populace with plenty of oddly written dialog coming at you wrapped in artistic pretension. On The Doll serves to exploit a serious issue. Pedophilia, molesters, right along side with their abused children are all here on the plate as entertainment. Though the editing is well executed its the opposite of being a '"star vehicle" for Brittany Snow. The other actors give us their best student like performances. Yes, this film is terrible but not in the fun way. The end leaves one wondering what is the exact personal problem(s)of writer/director Thomas Mignone to take such an interest here


Molly Lasser (10 years ago) Reply

I cannot recommend On The Doll. ). It's
just a BAD movie; not funny, intelligent, honest, powerful, or revelant. The cast seems to mainly be made up of student thespians in need of more study. There's better stuff out there to choose from.


agentorange (10 years ago) Reply

Hey Marina, thanks for the awesome review!

The early footage may have scared the balls off me *winks* but I predicted this would be a dud.


Jake (9 years ago) Reply

The terrible seen in which Brittany Snow's victim is brutally tortured made me turn away from this piece of crap.


amanda (7 years ago) Reply

yeah do not waste your time watching this movie, just awful

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