It takes an incredible amount of anti talent to create a film so bland, so deeply unattractive and frantic as Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture (2018).
Dollhouse (2018) (I sincerely apologise for using the abbreviation, but this is the most ridiculous title I’ve seen in my movie-related career) is a sarcastic look at the modern celebrity issues. The film is a para-documentary that talks about the rise and fall of Junie Spoons – a teenager starlet who never leaves the headlines of tabloids.
We live in very strange times. Thanks to the social media and “always connected” culture, information flies faster than ever. People need to be constantly fed with something and – surprise, surprise – this something turns out to be celebrity gossips and rise-and-falls. We crave them and consume them, filling our own miserable lives with somebody else’s drama. Quite recently, I spoke about it with Casey Killoran, who nailed the problem by saying that “Our generations is fascinated with being famous. Talent used to be important, people needed it to get famous. Nowadays, you don’t need that. All you need is to be hot.“
As a society, we’re still processing how to cope with this new reality of Snapchat celebrities, Instagramers and influencers.
Naturally, the film industry is searching for the ways to talk about it too. And the thing is – it has to do that soon. Because more and more hot topics will be related to these gossips and online fame. Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture (2018) is an attempt to approach it in a witty, sarcastic way, but the result is beyond anything bad I’ve seen this year (and I’ve seen a lot).
Before I go into what’s wrong, let me just say that the only merit of Nicole Brending’s directorial debut is its short time.
The plot of Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture (2018)
Junie Spoons – the embodiment of young female celebrities – does everything to be on everyone’s mouths. I get it. She is also a product of the rotten society. I get it too. Spoons is basically the embodiment of what’s wrong with the modern “us“. Junie sings about sex while claiming to be an ardent Christian, she makes a video in which she masturbates with a spoon (because her name is Spoons, right?) and even sells her vagina (literally…) when the media moves on to some other celebrity. All of that takes place while she’s still a teenager.
The idea of hyperbolising these celebrity lifestyles isn’t something particularly innovative on its own. However, it requires taste to use irony and push the boundaries in a thought-provoking way. A perfect example is Bojack Horseman. The ridiculous, goofy concepts are perfectly balanced by the deeper meaning of the whole story.
I brought Bojack Horseman on purpose. One of the background characters appearing in the series was Sextina Aquafina – an orca which became famous after singing an iconoclastic song about killing her own fetus (as a way to talk about abortion). Junie Spoons reminds of Aquafina a lot. Unlike Bojack Horseman, Brending’s effort is completely flat, ill-inspired and completely lacking the deeper meaning.
Dollhouse (2018) is just painfully empty
Most of the scenes belong to a cheap show from Adult Swim, but not to a film that actually has something interesting to say. Following the documentary narrative, Brending builds Junie’s story from short interviews with people somehow related to Junie – her deranged mother, a creep who claims to be “an expert on Junie Spoons” and a guy, who impersonates every black rapper stereotype in existence. Some of these opinions are supposed to be funny (I’d dare to say that that’s the main intention), some push the plot forward. But the tone of it all is heavy as a rock.
My biggest issue that I have with Brending’s Dollhouse (2018) is that there is no particular answer to the question – why should I care about Junie Spoons in the first place? Should I feel remorse because of her wannabe-star mother? Should I feel bad about myself for being part of the society that fosters the growth of the starlets like Junie? Or should I – as an obviously misogynistic pig – feel particularly responsible for the drama of stars like Junie Spoons?
Dollhouse (2018) doesn’t bring these answers. Hell, it doesn’t even attempt to do that. It leaves its viewer with a blank sheet of paper.
On top of that comes the fact that when Brending loses her fuel completely, she brings a caricature of Donald Trump as her last resort. Sure, he is a symbol of the worse part of America. He is racist, he embodies both everything what’s bad and what’s expected to change. However, he also is a symbol of weakness from the artistic point of view. If you lack arguments, you can always throw some Donald Trump and he will do the job for you.
The execution side doesn’t look any better. The film is an ultra-low budget production – the dolls look as cheap as you can imagine, more like DIY patchworks rather than works of art. It would not have been so painful if I did not watch “La Casa Lobo” – film, where the artistic value has blew my mind. Even if “Dollhouse:…” relied on the imagination of its viewers, it doesn’t justify poor editing and execution.
At times, I asked myself the question if “Dollhouse:…” isn’t some sort of a joke. A nasty kind of derision, purporting to be something more meaningful. However, even if it is, it’s a very, very lame joke.
Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture (2018)
Hate Grade: 9.5/10
Director: Nicole Brending