'Trouble Dolls': LAFF Review

TROUBLE DOLLS Film Still - H 2014

TROUBLE DOLLS Film Still - H 2014

Creative miscalculation rarely gets celebrated so enthusiastically.  

Jess Weixler and Jennifer Prediger go fully DIY as writers, directors and stars of their feature debut.

Cinematic self-indulgence ascends to astounding heights in Trouble Dolls, a low-budget cringe-fest that severely tests the boundaries of self-deprecating humor. Anyone curious enough to track down this bargain-basement buddy comedy is likely to eventually find it available online for less than the cost of a movie ticket.

Colossally dysfunctional roommates and BFFs Nicole (Jess Weixler) and Olivia (Jennifer Prediger) can barely maintain a toehold in their cramped, New York City illegal sublet. Nicole hasn’t sold any of her randomly constructed conceptual art pieces in recent memory, and Olivia’s acting auditions have yet to yield a major payday. Months behind on rent owed to amorous landlord Bob (Jeffrey Tambor), they have little hope of catching up, so they opt for a clean break, splitting New York in search of greener pastures.

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Since Nicole’s rich Aunt Kimberley has often extended an open-ended invitation to visit her in L.A., the women hitch a ride on the private corporate jet assigned to Nicole’s dad, landing in California with neither a plan nor adequate cab fare. Fortunately, awkward Simon (Will Forte) offers them a ride to Kimberley’s from the airport, bonding with Olivia over their shared dependence on Ritalin and other mood-altering prescription drugs. In fact, Simon’s so wacked out on pills that his outrageous behavior forces the girls to flee his car in the middle of traffic, making their own way to Kimberley’s house.

Their unannounced arrival doesn’t perturb Nicole’s married aunt in the least, accustomed as she is to unpredictability as the host of an “America’s Got Talent” type TV show. She immediately installs the girls in her home, wasting no time before starting to hit on Olivia, who’s still grieving over the recent death of her beloved cat and totally creeped out by Kimberley’s apparently polyamorous lifestyle and constant come-ons. Formulating a plan to score some cash by appearing on the talent show, Nicole and Olivia devise an outlandishly spontaneous spoken-word performance for their taped audition that could either get them back on track or result in very public humiliation.

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After a string of indie acting gigs, real-life buddies Prediger and Weixler got the idea that filmmaking was the next logical extension of their careers, but don’t appear seasoned enough to successfully make the transition. Aside from the bewildering excuse for a script, which barely crosses the one-hour mark at 77 minutes, the variations on visual humor verge on the sophomorically uninspired. The pair’s comedic performances appear to be largely shaped by haphazard improvisation rather than coherent planning, but nonetheless manage to wring a few laughs from their predominantly unfunny characterizations.

Such lack of expertise might be considered unfortunate if it weren’t so deliberate, since the film’s technical execution is well above many similarly staged low-budget films. 

Production company: Starstream Entertainment

Cast: Jennifer Prediger, Jess Weixler, Will Forte, Megan Mullally, Jeffrey Tambor, Bob Byington
Directors-writers: Jennifer Prediger, Jess Weixler

Producers: Kim Leadford, Daniel McCarney, Felipe Dieppa

Director of photography: Daniel Sharnoff

Editor: Arturo Sosa

Music: Thomas Bartlett

No rating, 77 minutes