Down & Out With The Dolls
Down & Out With The Dolls By Rich Osmond. Down & Out with the Dolls (Kurt Voss, 2000, USA) The roll call of fictional cinematic all-girl punk rock bands is long and varied, from the Stains (Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains) to the Lovedolls (Desperate Teenage Lovedolls, Lovedolls Superstar), to, hell, even the live-action Josie and the Pussycats (at least their songs were good)...
Down & Out with the Dolls (Kurt Voss, 2000, USA)
The roll call of fictional cinematic all-girl punk rock bands is long and varied, from the Stains (Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains) to the Lovedolls (Desperate Teenage Lovedolls, Lovedolls Superstar), to, hell, even the live-action Josie and the Pussycats (at least their songs were good). To this list add the Paper Dolls, rockin’ Portland, Oregon in Kurt Voss’s contribution to the genre, the comedy-drama Down & Out with the Dolls.
When she breaks up with her boyfrend/bandmate and gets booted from the band simultaneously, local scene goddess Fauna (Zoe Poledouris) rebounds by hooking up with the garage band led by her starstruck fan, Kali (Nichole Barrett). Calling themselves the Paper Dolls, the band moves in together, Monkees-style, and gets to work trying to make the magic happen. They survive the typical ego/creative conflicts to score a contract with the local indie label and make a name for themselves in the scene. But more serious trouble starts when Levi (Coyote Shovers), the leader of the scene’s top band, the Suicide Bombers, returns to Portland fresh from snagging a major label deal. Kali and Fauna both go after him and critical mass is reached at a party at the Doll House amidst fistfights, embarrassing childhood photos, binge drinking, sudden death, and appearances by Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead as a guy crashing in the upstairs closet.
Dolls takes the time to capture the feel of a local music scene, with its hierarchy of bands, the local labels, and indie record stores, and it all rings true. The cast (many of them real-life musicians) adds to the verisimilitude with their naturalistic and laid-back performances. Zoe Poledouris (who also wrote the catchy score) is especially great, projecting the obnoxiousness needed to portray a rock-star-in-her-own-mind-type.
Writer/director Kurt Voss is a frequent collaborator of Allison Anders’s, co-directing her first film, Border Radio, and the more recent Sugar Town. He also has a side career helming straight-to-video action flicks like Body Count (AKA Below Utopia), a cool action-noir starring Alyssa Milano and Ice-T. Voss shows real affection for all of the characters in Dolls as they wind in and out of various subplots, never allowing anyone, even Fauna, to come across as one-dimensional. The final "where are they now?" wrap-up is surprisingly big-hearted, too, making Down & Out with the Dolls the sweetest punk rock girl movie to date.
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