Genre: Romance, Drama
Cast: Bae Doona
Synopsis: A blow-up love doll develops a soul and begins to see all the beauty and difficulty in life as she falls in love.
Excited by the fact that in three weeks time I will be jetting to Tokyo, I have decided that the next few films I review for this blog should be Japanese. Knowing of my love for beautifully poetic films, my brother suggested that I watch Air Doll and I happily agreed to do so. Once again, I found myself staring down the barrel of film which reflects the old adage “WTF Japan!?”
The whole concept behind blow-up love dolls is creepy enough but to actually see someone interact and make sweet and passionate love to one pushes the boundaries of creepiness. I can’t say that I have seen Lars and the Real Girl so I don’t know if that has a similar level of WTF-ness but I can guarantee that Air Doll trumps it on weirdness purely on the fact that, in this movie, there is a scene in which a Japanese man is washes out his lovely lady’s removable vaj in a small plastic wash basin. Remember to keep it fresh ladies. However, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit sorry for the guy who owns the doll as well as some of the other characters. The movie’s main theme is “urban loneliness,” which is the feeling isolation despite living in a city full of people. It’s a feeling that I have felt at times and it was therefore easy for me to connect with the plights of the characters. Having said that, I don’t need to fuck a piece of inflatable plastic to combat loneliness….I have Grindr.
You would be wrong to assume that the movie is all just one big freak show though. One thing that the movie does very well is capture both the beauty and horror of modern life. Whether it’s the beauty of quiet contemplation while watching the sunset, or the pleasure of making a “happiness buy,” or the depressing hilarity of a “sadness binge-eat”, or even the crushing horror of a “shame wank,” Air Doll shows the very essence of life in all of its beautiful-ugly glory. Rather than portray life as one big lively party or as a depressing slog, Hirokazu Koreeda instead presents something which feels more honest and real, something I love in movies.
On a more technical analysis, the film has its strengths. The soundtrack is whimsical and Bae Doona does a great job at portraying Nozomi the air doll. I think it was a stroke of genius to have a Korean actress play the doll as it gives her performance more of an “alien” feel as her pronunciation of words is probably imperfect and her facial features are more doll-like. Having listed the strengths, it’s important to look at the film’s flaws. There aren’t many but a big concern is that the plot is very much on the thin side. Not a lot really happens in this movie and, running at more than two hours, watching it all can be a test of stamina. Also, then ending felt a little hurried and the dark twist came out of nowhere. Although I enjoyed the twist, I didn’t feel appropriately prepared for it so all this happiness I felt kind of came crashing to the ground without warning. Thanks for toying with my emotions Japan.
- Honest portrayal of single life in an urban environment: depressing, yet strangely beautiful and poetic.
- This scene.
- Whimsical soundtrack and great performances.
- This movie made me feel really excited about my upcoming trip to Japan.
- Slow-paced and long.
- Thin plot.
- A creepy Japanese man washing a removable vagina. Never thought I’d see that in my life.
Air Doll is the sort of movie that will divide audiences. If you like slow-paced and eccentric dramas then you should definitely check it out. However, if you’re the sort of person who needs a film with a steady plot progression and lots of things going on to keep you entertained then this is not necessarily the movie for you. A lot of patience is required for Air Doll so make sure you smoke something that gives you couch lock. Still, even if you don’t par-toke, a lot of fun can be derived from making fun of Japanese eccentricities and especially when they are as bizarre as fucking plastic dolls. I hope I get to see some things that are even crazier when I’m in Japan.