SLIFF 2010 Review: SUICIDE DOLLS
Review by Dana Jung
Disney fans who are used to seeing actress Christy Carlson Romano as the consummate Disney mean girl in such fare as CADET KELLY, the CUTTING EDGE sequels, EVEN STEVENS, and the voice of KIM POSSIBLE may be shocked at her performance in SUICIDE DOLLS, showing at SLIFF. The talented Romano gave hidden depth to many of the stereotyped Disney good/bad girl roles, but in SUICIDE DOLLS, she does a complete 360 as the foul-mouthed, drug-addled high-schooler Amber who, with her best friend Jade (LaQuita Cleare, also one of the film’s producers), is contemplating ending it all.
Giving themselves one day to record a video diary and do some things for the last time, the girls basically sit around talking, complaining, arguing, and generally baring their souls. Both have problems, both think they have nothing to live for, and both lean on each other for comfort and support. These two young women could almost be the girls of THIRTEEN grown older, if not wiser.
Director Keith Shaw, an experienced AD in films and television, keeps things moving nicely in a dialogue-heavy film. The story unfolds in non-sequential fashion, inter-cutting different episodes from the girls’ past with the present day. We see how they first meet in a charming scene, we see the family issues at the root of some of their emotional problems, etc. Screen time is pretty evenly divided between the two, however, Romano dominates the movie in every scene she’s in. With her unconventional dark good looks and always-present hoodie, Romano shows how good she might have been as Lisbeth Salander in the DRAGON TATTOO series. When Jade asks if she’s worried about going to Hell after committing suicide, Amber replies flatly, “I’m already in Hell” And you believe her. Amber’s final moments onscreen are as harrowing and raw as it gets.
Unfortunately, the script, by first-time writers Charissa Gracyk and Gillian Perdeau, hits every teen suicide cliche and then some, including sexual abuse, HIV/AIDS, broken homes, drug and alcohol abuse, and more. Though at times it crackles with wit and real emotion, many scenes & plot-lines, such as Amber’s relationship with her stoned-out mother (the ‘Sheila monster’) just don’t ring true. While earnest, this approach (along with its somewhat cop-out ending) ultimately gives the project an After school Special vibe. But with Romano’s powerful performance guiding it, SUICIDE DOLLS is elevated to a memorable movie experience.
SUICIDE DOLLS will play during the 19th Annual Stella Artois St. Louis International Film Festival on Saturday, November 13th at 4:30 pm at the Tivoli Theatre.