Air Doll (2009)

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda Starring: Bae Doona, Arata, Itusuji Itao, Joe Odagiri Runtime: 125 minutes Country: Japan

A lifesize inflatable sex doll (Bae Doona) develops a soul and falls in love with a video store clerk (Arata).

Air Doll is a perfect example of the kind of film that could never be made in the Hollywood. Many Americans who see the film describe its unique premise as weird and consider this a valid criticism. If a film can be criticized for originality, we live in a sad world indeed. Air Doll's creative premise is not only what attracted me to this film, it's also the film's greatest and only strength.

I had been hoping for a stirring meditation on loneliness and isolation in modern society in the spirit of Lee Hae-jun's Castaway on the Moon (2009). Air Doll certainly had the potential to deliver it, but my hopes were deflated when it became abundantly clear that the film was going absolutely nowhere. On top of the film's aimlessness, it also suffers from some serious plausibility issues. Obviously, it's a fantasy film, but the implausibility becomes too much when we see Junichi's reactions to Nozomi's naïve questions. Junichi, the video store clerk, seems completely at ease with the fact that Nozomi doesn't even know what a birthday is. Mind you, this is before he discovers Nozomi's secret. I considered that perhaps he assumes she's mentally handicapped, but there is no indication he does. Similarly, there was a scene roughly half an hour into the film when Nozomi goes into a beauty parlor, where a beautician applies makeup to the seam on her neck. The beautician doesn't seem at all alarmed or even curious as to why Nozomi has seams on her body.

Air Doll is a highly disjointed and slow-moving film. The scenes just don't seem to fit together at all and it's filled with too many minor characters who ultimately could have been left out to trim the film down to a more manageable runtime. As I've indicated previously, a lengthy runtime doesn't bother me, but its premise had lost so much momentum before even reaching the one-hour mark that I could hardly wait for the ending credits to roll. Air Doll was a great idea, but a poorly executed one.


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