While watching Stray Dolls, three specific movies come to mind: Thelma & Louise meets Thirteen… meets Spring Breakers? Oh boy, here we go.
The film opens up with our main character Riz getting a new job in a new country, which seems like a great starting point for a film like this. I was ready for this new job to go haywire, which it kind of does. We get an exciting incident after we meet her and then nothing else really happens until 35 minutes later. The film has such a hard time deciding when to take off that by the time anything else happens, I wasn’t invested enough to care. What I do appreciate, at the very least, is the female perspective, which was my initial attraction. I normally don’t fall head over heels for simple crime dramas like this because they’re usually centered around boring guys whose dynamic I don’t find that entertaining. I anticipated something to learn or think about coming at the end, after having to endure a slow burning pace, but the reality was less than surprising.
Riz and Dallas, two cleaning ladies at a run down motel, take matters into their own hands by killing a drug dealer after he figured out days later they stole his drugs. I don’t really know how else to put it. Don’t worry, I’m not spoiling anything, there’s not much after this. How Riz and Dallas indiscreetly dispose of a body in broad daylight without getting caught is the most astonishing part of the whole film. Later, which feels like forever, they go and break into a high school for some drugs in a cabinet and get away with ease. The film feels like it put more work into looking edgy over having a coherent plot. This is the same issue I had with The Rhythm Section back in January. The plot feels so tired of itself as it’s dragged out into what feels like an eternity. I imagine there is a short version of this somewhere and someone wanted to see it as a feature, refusing to fill in the blanks along the way.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The only character I care about is Riz, played by Geetanjali Thapa. There are layers to her and even though she isn’t perfect, she tries to do what she feels is right, which I find pretty redeemable. Her whole performance was the stronghold of the film, and it deserved better. Her relationship with Dallas is nauseating to say the least, but probably because Dallas makes my skin crawl. The performance is good in that sense, but it doesn’t make up for her lack of dimension. Cynthia Nixon’s terrible faux Russian or Polish (whichever it decides to be that scene) accent gave me a head-ache. However, I do believe Una and her son Jimmy exist out there in real life.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
There is absolutely no score, but a few soundtracks dropped in when the film feels like it. It doesn’t really make a difference either way if you ask me. The sound design is alright. There’s a part when Riz chokes someone with a cord, and the cutting between her and Dallas’ reactions really pulls you into the moment. But then later on she whacks a guy over the head with a shovel and they show this happening over and over making it feel like they missed a foley session.
I really dug the gloomy look of the film that kept me from looking away. The scene where Riz is in the photo booth at night is fantastic, and it’s about the only thing I’m still thinking about. I love the look of night lights trapped in the fog surrounding her, making me feel how trapped she is in the situation. And I never thought I would say this, but I really wish the rage over neon signs would die. Anytime you have a novice movie with a motel, people go slap happy with gels and it’s getting pretty old. I know that’s probably just me, but I’m here to say it just in case I’m not. I really enjoyed the cinematography and the color grading as well.
"Thelma & Louise Meets Thirteen… Meets Spring Breakers?"
I’m not trying to be hard on this film. Call me a bitter Betty, that’s fine. If this movie got me to think about anything, it’s that I can’t believe we continue to let filmmakers get away with having people walk around with wigs and waving guns around and expect it to marvel everyone without a substantial storyline. On the bright side, I don’t doubt it will garner positive responses from folks who enjoy movies of this nature. In that case, more power to you! Stray Dolls is available now on VOD.