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Down And Out With The Dolls


Down And Out With The Dolls


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If Down And Out With The Dolls were a song, it would be a self-released single in a hand-drawn sleeve. If it were literature, it'd be a Xeroxed 'zine stapled together and filled with typo-riddled stories involving substance abuse and ill-fated one-night stands. Down And Out is a movie, however, so it's shot on smudgy digital video and imbued with an earnest awkwardness that would be a lot more charming coming from a brash neophyte rather than an old pro like writer-director Kurt Voss. Best known for his work with Allison Anders, Voss previously visited the rock-world milieu with Sugar Town; while there's a world separating that film's middle-aged rock has-beens and Down And Out's spunky upstarts, the movies share a depressingly banal take on music and the people who make it. Set amid the bars, record stores, house parties, and skate parks of Portland, Oregon, the film stars Zoë Poledouris as the self-obsessed veteran of countless failed indie-rock bands. When her latest group dramatically implodes, she hooks up with three newcomers to form The Paper Dolls. Like a DIY version of The Monkees, the all-female quartet moves in together and hones its chops, but it isn't long before infighting, contrasting personalities, backstabbing, and artistic conflicts put the band's future in jeopardy. For the sake of thematic simplicity, Voss helpfully divides the group into virgins and whores. Half of the band callously uses sexuality to manipulate partners for their own shallow purposes, much like Jade Gordon's character in Sugar Town, while the other half earnestly tries to forge meaningful, lasting relationships. Down And Out tries to get by on gumption and energy alone, but an undertone of sniggering sexism—the film features not only a surplus of leering lipstick lesbianism, but also a proper catfight—works against the film's essential likability, and Voss' use of digital video gives it an amateurish feel that its shaky writing, direction, and acting only exacerbate.