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CampBlood Reviews: Senseless Rants from a Picky Sissy

 

Love Object Robert Parigi 2003

Makin' Love Outta Nothin' At All

In what is one of the more disappointingly over-hyped and under-delivering horror films of the new year (well, as the only horror film released since Christmas, I guess it's the MOST dissapointingly over-hyped and under-delivering horror film of the new year), a lonely, isolated man finds love in the arms of a silicon doll, and for once, she doesn't simply divorce him and settle for the house in Malibu.

The admirably determined and horribly named Desmond Harrington (who, after last year's Wrong Turn, is becoming the Jamie Lee Curtis of the New Millenium) plays Kenneth, an admirably determined and horribly named copy writer for a technical publishing company run by Rip Torn. He spends his days in a flourescent-lit cell writing text for instruction manuals for VCRs and First-Aid Kits, and never smiles or does anything fun or spontaneous. We are meant to understand that even though he's cute enough to spread on a cracker, he has somehow resigned himself to the most preposterously boring job that a first-time screenwriter can come up with and the worst lighting that a roll of green gel can offer. Kenneth keeps a hula-girl lamp by his desk and, after learning from his doctor that he has a Brain Cloud, decides to sacrifice himself to a volcano to save a group of natives on a tropical island. No, wait -- that was Joe vs. the Volcano. And it was funny!

Instead, Kenneth for some reason buys a silicon sex doll that costs $10,000 and can be designed to look like anyone you choose. In an odd move, Ken makes his look like the anemic temp down the hall, Jenny (played by Melissa Sagemiller, who was apparently forced to appear here as community service for starring in both Soul Survivors and Sorority Boys), who wears clothes that make her look beige and generally reminds you of every desperate temp you've ever seen. Here the fundamental problem with this production becomes painfully clear: when the doll arrives (looking a bit too much like Ms. Sagemiller and proving that imitation is not always the greatest form of flattery), Kenneth promptly porks her on his bed.... but leaves his clothes on. I'm sorry, folks -- I'm all for tact and restraint and all that, but if you're making a psychosexual thriller about a guy who's sick on fucking a rubber doll, you cannot shy away from nudity and intimacy. The Ken/Nikki (the sex doll) scenes are embarrassingly chaste, but they're nothing compared to the love scenes between Ken and Jenny: you get the sense that the director was ashamed to expose his actors or ask them to engage in such "risky" behavior on film. Of course, cutting people up with powertools and chaining them up and stuffing them in packing boxes for days on end is fair game. But no nudity. The only skin is an oddly disembodied breast shot (echoes of Ms. Jackson) that is only there as a plot device and again is laughably out-of-place.

Lest I seem like a pervie or a skin-freak (or simply a Desmond Harrington devotee), let me elaborate a little on this. This film is about detatchment and isolation, and the inability of a man to find intimacy. His only outlet for affection and passion is a creepy rubber doll, and he is able to project humanness onto this cold silicon canvas and treat the dummy like a living, breathing woman (even going so far as to order her Chinese food). This buttoned-up Junior Achiever would seem a close cousin to our favorite American Psycho, Patrick Bateman, but he has none of the physicality, and this is where the film falls flat: the detatchment of Kenneth from his own body and the body of his in-the-flesh girlfriend comes across as a non-decision, as it is given no meaning. I would think that this stuffed shirt would have some serious issues with the body, considering he is balling a mannequin and hangs out in porn shops, and that these issues would lead to some sort of fetishization. The kid gloves with which both the romantic and sadomastochistic sexual elements of the film are handled rob the film of any visceral impact, which is sadly felt in the final scenes, which suffer greatly from this loss. The end result is the equivalent of watching a community theatre production of Hair in which everyone wears skin-colored unitards and pretends they're nude.

I only linger on this issue because I think that the story had a real potential and the outcome was pretty disappointing, and I think that to trust your audience with such themes as sexual obsession and dysfunction and murder and not trust them to handle intimacy, nudity, or sex is a bit silly. There are other faults as well, including some clumsy dialogue scenes and the ending, which I found convenient and cliched, but I have a problem with resolutions that come from coincidence or misunderstandings rather than action. And we're primed for a sequel!

On the plus side, Sagemiller gives an earnest and very convincing performance as a frustrated art student forced to work in a dead-end job to make ends meet (a fate that may not be too far from reality if her track record holds), and the random presence of Udo Kier, who apparently will appear in a film if you buy him a sandwich (somebody shoot his agent!), is always a confusing treat.

Rating (out of 5):