Written and directed by Yalan Hu, when Gunther (Timothy J. Cox) feels his marriage of three years with Natalie, a sex doll, has grown stale, he purchases a new doll which he considers to be “true love”. Also starring: Jeff Mandel, Devin Craig and Wayne DeBary.
As the years pass, there are some things that change and others that remain constant, one of those that persists is the phenomenon of middle-aged men, ditching their wives for a younger model and in this film, that also applies to sex dolls. It’s a great metaphor, it may be directly on the nose but that does it no detriment, it’s funny in a way that requires no explanation or context, it’s extremely accessible. It’s a clever touch that not only is it a replacement doll, it’s actually an upgraded model, in case the metaphor wasn’t pushed far enough for you. Although it definitely adds to the comedy that the first ‘wife’ is a very cheesy looking blow-up sex doll, it reminds you of The Office and Michael’s misguided ideas about sexual harassment seminars.
There are most likely various types of sex doll owners, not that anyone would want to learn about them, but Gunther (Cox) is certainly more of the Lars and the Real Girl variety, it’s a very particular kind of person and yet, even with the comedy factor, the creep factor makes you think this guy probably exists somewhere. With the little you can gather about Gunther based on the few minutes you see him, he’s not exactly someone you’d want to spend any time with but he does manage to retain some likability; granted it’s not a large amount but credit has to go to Hu and Cox for making that happen at all. Not to mention the fact that Cox succeeds in keeping a serious expression and attitude while constantly interacting with a sex doll, is impressive; he’s utterly convincing and if this film went on any longer, it would probably become disturbingly so.
The writing is surprising, once things get going there’s a couple of unexpected twists which are great, it would have been very easy to just make this comedy one note and it would still work but it branches out to add a little more story to it. There are a couple of moments that feel slightly jarring than the generally smooth running of the film, mostly those that involve the delivery man (Craig), there’s no issue with his performance but the character simply doesn’t fit entirely well into the story and feels more of a plot device than character. It is a difficult line to walk because there isn’t a lot of time to add much more context but the dialogue felt somewhat out of place and could have potentially been adjusted to fix that incompatibility.
Doll it Up is a great parody of men and their mid-life crises second marriages, the subtext is extremely obvious but not to the point where it’s over the top, although there are brief moments where a joke or two goes slightly too long and loses its stronger comedic edge. Timothy J. Cox gives an almost disturbingly convincing portrayal of Gunther and yet still manages to make you have the tiniest bit of sympathy for this very creepy man. It’s funny, an utterly fitting satire and even has a couple of surprises in store.