Film Review: Sex Doll

Listless, highly predictable study of a call girl in trouble and her stalwart, if punk-like, hero.
Specialty Releases

In the highest echelons of the call girl world, the chicly black-clad Virginie (Hafsia Herzi) busily plies her complex, lucrative trade. She is fiercely independent, answering only to her tough madam (Karole Rocher), until she meets her romantic match. He’s a Brit named Rupert (Ash Stymest) and he makes her all a-tingle—until she learns that he is in the business of rescuing trafficked girls.

All the elements for a juicy, sin-filled divertissement are there in Sex Doll: a properly beautiful and nubile central young couple, gleamingly luxurious settings which form the background for all those costly trysts, the potency of cinema’s age-old obsession with sex and love, a poignant, tinkly piano theme to underscore the romantic existentialism of it all. There’s just one problem: We’ve seen it all before, many times, and much better done. Director Sylvie Verheyde's script is thin to a skeletal degree, often lazily relying on the Pregnant Pause, as her camera wanders listlessly over the features of Virginie and Rupert, lost in their own picturesque ruminations. (After a while, you begin to feel like Carole Lombard, who once remarked about director George Stevens, famous for his saturnine silences: “You know what’s going on in his head? Not a goddam thing!”) The violent denouement, set, unoriginally, at an orgy gone horribly wrong, with Rupert once more appearing as Virginie’s tattooed knight in shining armor to the rescue, feels both contrived and unconvincing.

As this quiet toast of the town, Herzi somewhat resembles Eva Longoria and, like her co-star Stymest, whom Cocteau would have surely died for as a model, favors attitude over any performance depth. But there’s really not much they could do with material so predictable and wan, with him voicing lost aspirations to be a writer, of course, and too many scenes set in discos, with her poutingly swaying to and fro in that highly imitable French style of club dancing all too familiar from dozens of other demimondaine-set films. And, as far as being a fit representative of the oldest profession, she seems a rather cold fish, with nothing like the erotic allure and professionalism of Jane Fonda in Klute, Anna Karina in Vivre sa vie, Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour, or even a Hays Code Vivien Leigh, making her way through Waterloo Bridge with an irresistibly suggestive smile on her exquisite face. Rocher is fitfully amusing, giving a performance that reeks of Gale Sondergaard at her most exotic/worldly-wise/sinister, the smoke of her cigarette holder wafting upwards as she expounds on the difficulty wrangling the play-for-pay set. 

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