July 24, 2010
It is always a shame when you are very much looking forward to seeing something and then it goes ahead and doesn’t quite live up to your expectations of it. From director Hirokazu Koreeda whose feature Still Walking (2008) was well received at MIFF in 2009, comes Air Doll (2009), a film about an inflatable sex doll who “finds a heart” and comes to life.
Unfortunately the metaphor for an empty life and even the secondary layer of film being a substitute for experience, is just a little too straight forward and the doll’s role as a “substitute” is annoyingly reiterated at every opportune moment throughout the film. Perhaps if it had been more explorative of the notion of animation and if the subtext were subtler it would have had something of a fighting chance; as it stands the film is sweet and thoughtful at best. There are one or two stand out narrative developments that border on interesting but ultimately return to safe ground, the result of which is that the it often feels as though it is consciously trying just a bit too hard to fit an established mould of “meditative” and “well-observed” art house cinema, which to be honest, is tiresome.
The idea itself is indeed a good one and immediately recalls the sweet, sensitive feel-good success of Lars and the Real Girl (2007), but unfortunately Air Doll is just not as altogether tidy nor as tonally endearing in execution. There are a series of secondary characters in the film that just don’t need to be there because they aren’t developed well enough and the result is that many of the scenes involving them tend to feel slow and unnecessary. I suspect that if it had have been a thirty minute short it could have been brilliant. Not at all a complete waste of time, but certainly not all it could be, Air Doll has moments of beauty and occasional originality.
Air Doll screens as a part of this year’s MIFF and will be screening again on Saturday 01 August 2010, 9.15pm, Greater Union Cinema 3.