My Doll (2012) – By Philip Smolen

Omaha, Nebraska is famous for many things including the College World Series, the birthplace of President Gerald Ford and Malcom X and the home of several famous rock bands including 311 and Manheim Steamroller. But in the short “My Doll”, it is also the home of some weird and funky ventriloquists.

In “My Doll” writer/director Tony Bonacci tells the story of three Omahans and how their dedication to ventriloquism has affected their lives. Eury’s (Martin Kenna) obsession nearly costs him his relationship with his girlfriend; Russell (Doug Marr) uses his puppet skills to help establish a rapport with his newly adopted son; while Wendy (Nonnie Shipwreck) sometimes treats her real life son Jules (Dax Iford) as a puppet.

The film is a peculiar and unusual look at an eclectic group of people dedicated to keeping a dying art form alive. In many ways it feels like an early Tim Burton film. It’s got the same odd tempo as many of Burton’s films do, and features strange characters that live their lives differently from the norm. It’s a celebration of the weird and bizarre.

My main frustration with “My Doll” is that it’s too short. Fifteen minutes just isn’t enough time to get to know these people, so their stories feel rushed and incomplete. There were so many questions I had that the film didn’t answer much less bring up including how are these people viewed by the rest of the community? Have they suffered for the love of their art? Are they able to live in the regular world without much trouble?

I also thought that none of the actors in the film really distinguished themselves. Their performances are mostly monotonic. I needed them to show me their hearts and souls but they really didn’t rise up to the challenge.

This is definitely a strange little story about an odd group of folks trying to live their dreams. It’s a good indie short that briefly sparkles but doesn’t reach heights of true brilliance due to its brevity and lack of distinguishing performances. But if you have a taste for subjects outside mainstream cinema, you should check out “My Doll.”

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