Wednesday, 28 April 2010

FILM REVIEW. DOWN AND OUT WITH THE DOLLS.

This movie was released in 2003 (although I think it may have been finished in 2001) and although it played at a couple of film festivals and some of the larger American cities, it never really received widespread release.  The DVD came out in 2004 --- it only features a couple of extras like the original trailer and a music video of one of the songs from the movie.  The film's story was written by D. D. Cheriel who based it on her experiences of playing in all-girl rock bands like Adickdid and The Teen Angels.  The director Kurt Voss is best known for his work with Allison Anders.  The film was made on a tiny budget on location in Portland featuring many local musicians as extras.  None of the main actresses/actors had any acting experience although several of them were musicians in their own right.  There are also cameos from musicians like Lemmy (who plays an incomprehensible homeless man who lives in a closet) and Inger Lorre (who appears as a partygoer and does one of her songs).
 
 

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT:  MELDOY MOORE, NICOLE BARRETT, ZOE POLEDOURIS AND KINNIE STARR.  (LAVENDER, KALI, FAUNA, REGGIE).

The story is a bit clich├ęd but the spirited performances and occasional smart lines make it surprisingly watchable (and it's a lot less melodramatic than Prey For Rock and Roll).  Fauna (played Zoe Poledouris who also wrote much of the music) is a bitchy lead singer who teams up with some other girls to launch her latest attempt at stardom.  They call their band The Paper Dolls but before long tensions appear between Fauna and the more sensitive songwriter/guitar player, Kali (played by Nicole Barrett).  These tensions worsen when Fauna takes a shine to Levi (played by Coyote Shivers, the one-time husband of Liv Tyler's mum, Bebe Buell) who Kali has had a crush on for years.   He's now the lead singer of The Suicide Bombers, a local band who are poised to sign to a major label.  There's also subplots involving the relationship dificulties of Lavender (played by Melody Moore) and the drummer, Reggie (played by Kinnie Starr).  Despite these difficulties, The Paper Dolls secure a recording contract with cult label, Pop Up Records (also home to The Suicide Bombers).  They decide to celebrate by having a house party which ends in tragedy.




Despite this storyline, the movie isn't as heavy-handed or harrowing as Prey For Rock and Roll.  It's only 90 minutes long so the pace never drags and it's quite well-written.  However, some of the acting is really bad and amateurish and the whole film has a definite low-budget feel, which is helped or hindered (depending on your viewpoint) by the fact that it's all been shot on video.  The music is great --- the music of The Paper Dolls themselves is catchy alternative rock.  It's not quite as hard-edged or abrasive as a lot of female bands associated with this scene like 7 Year Bitch or Bikini Kill.  The soundtrack also features songs from other female bands like Inger Lorre and Lo-Ball (the new band of Claudia Rossi, who used to be in Jack Off Jill).  However, it doesn't feature at least one of the key songs of the movie --- the embarrassingly twee love song that Kali writes for Levi.

Personally, I thought this was a cool little movie --- if you're into independent alternative music and films and you're prepared to overlook the odd bit of dodgy acting then you'll probably like this film.  It would be great if someone would do a double of this and Prey For Rock and Roll at one of the film festivals or Ladyfests.



There's also an interview with Kurt Voss, D. D. Cheriel and Zoe Poledouris on the Rockerchick site --- it's at www.rockerchick.com/march2003_zine.html

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