Veteran documentary maker Maureen Judge presents us with a film which follows 5 doll collectors from different places, of different ages and who collect very different dolls.
Marshall has a background in design and at first glance appears to be a hobbit-like eccentric living a lonely life surrounded by his robot dolls; he takes your average Barbie and turns it into a robot (sometimes a sexy robot). Debbie hails from the UK and her collection of quite sorrowful looking dolls and their accessories is bankrupting her family. Linda has been collecting dolls her whole life and they all have a story, and now she has to cull her collection in order to make room for more. Mike in his 30s is the big Barbie lover who lives with his boyfriend and his parents – he doesn’t have a job because he devotes all his time to looking after his huge collection. David collects real dolls – life sized fantasies of women that he dresses up and has sex with (including an elf).
They are very different characters but they all have in common not only love of dolls but the projection of feelings onto their dolls. The dolls represent something to them which they can’t access in themselves or in their relationships with people. All the dolls have a history of their own which ties to the collectors’ own lives. There is a double edge for each of them in that they love their collections and their dolls but it comes with a price, quite literally of course, but their collections take up space, time and a part of the owners’ love and attention which means those around them often miss out.
Judge conveys as rounded a picture as she can of each of her subjects; Marshall has a partner who he doesn’t live with but who clearly loves him, Debbie finds support from her online doll collecting friends to help her cope with her new life as a young mother in a new country and we see Mike’s softer side on a trip to a doll convention in Vegas.
It is a sympathetic, moving and funny film. I particularly like the connecting shots whereby judge has made cities and towns look like miniatures. Some of the collectors are solitary and some are social in their collecting but they represent a cross section of humanity which you cannot help but be engaged by (even if like me you cringed every time David and one of his friends talked about women in general and having sex with their dolls).
Like Mike’s mum says, it could be worse “He doesn’t like drugs he likes Barbies”