Experimental Narrative, Mixed Animation, Satire. TRT: 75 minutes
The disturbingly funny debut feature film of director Nicole Brending, DOLLHOUSE: THE ERADICATION OF FEMALE SUBJECTIVITY FROM AMERICAN POPULAR CULTURE charts the rise and fall of fictional child pop star Junie Spoons as her life story and the ensuing disasters unfold. An irreverent feminist critique of everything wrong with how we think about women, DOLLHOUSE is a wild romp in the vein of SOUTH PARK and TEAM AMERICA down the rabbit hole of misogynist psychology.
From losing her virginity in a sex tape scandal to 24-hour marriages to a Patty-Hearst style kidnapping and bank heist to the murder of her mother, with opportunistic "friends," invasive paparazzi, insanity, and bankruptcy in between, this tween idol's life runs the gamut. But where is her voice in all this? Never seen from Junie's perspective, Junie herself is eventually eliminated from her own story, as her identity and body are scrutinized and apprehended by men. Using a mix of puppetry, stop motion and video game animation, DOLLHOUSE is a satirical, no-holds-barred examination of the hypocrisy, abuse, and exploitation that young women experience in America today.
A big part of this film is the music. The original pop songs were co-written by Brending and her long-time collaborator, Gemini and Emmy-award-winning composer Jean-Olivier Begin, then brought to life with the stunning vocals of Maggie Morrison (LookBook, Digitata), making Junie's world of bubble gum pop unmistakeable. The artist Haley (formerly Haley Bonar) contributed a cover of Junie's biggest hit single, "Dollhouse" and each song comes with its own music video. For music lovers who relish a satire, this film delivers.
Nicole Brending - Writer/Director/Producer
Nicole Brending is the winner of the Silver George for Best Short Film at the Moscow International for her film Selfied. She is a three-time Jerome Foundation grant recipient and is an alumna from the Nantucket Screenwriters Colony and the Berlinale Co-Production Market. As a screenwriter she has developed projects with Nicole Kidman, Catherine Hardwicke, and legendary producer Robert Evans. She co-wrote The Artist's Wife with Tom Dolby, currently in post and starring Lena Olin, Bruce Dern and Juliet Rylance. Her short films have screened at over 40 festivals world-wide and garnered awards such as the Prix de Varti from Ann Arbor (for funniest short), a Student Emmy (for Best Composition), and the Ursula Award from Hamburg LGBT International (for best lesbian short). She received her MFA from Columbia University where she won the Ezra Litwak Award for Distinction in Screenwriting for her script Preservation and Faculty Honors for her short film Duluth.
Jean-Olivier Begin - Composer
A Gemini-award winning composer, Jean-Olivier Begin began his scoring career during the Henry Mancini summer program in LA. His first score (for director Nicole Brending) for the film Operated by Invisible Hands won a Student Emmy for his work. He has composed for several national Canadian broadcasts and has also provided music and accompaniment to many great artists including Feist. This is his 7th project with Nicole.
THE HOMEMADE MOVIE AND HOW IT CAME TO PASS THAT JUNIE SPOONS FELL FROM GRACE
An Interview with Writer/Director Nicole Brending
Q. What inspired you to make this film?
"I decided to make this movie as a response to what I was seeing both in Hollywood and in the world at large. I have become very frustrated with this brand of soft, pseudo feminism that's going around social media and getting public attention right now that doesn't seem to acknowledge some fundamental issues facing women. Straight white men aren't necessarily the culprits. We can call out the Weinsteins and the Lauers of the world. But it's a a psychology that affects the way all people think. Not individuals or certain demographics. This film seeks to capture that psychology in all of its manifestations."
Q. What was the process of making the film like?
"I didn't have a whole lot of money where feature films are concerned and needed to be frugal so I wrote, directed, produced, shot, edited, production designed, and wrote lyrics for the film all from inside my apartment in St. Paul. I even learned how to make dolls. My hands hurt. My back hurt. I started referring to it as the Michael's Craft Project From Hell. Mostly I'd get up every day, walk over to my work tables and start gluing. It would take about two weeks to build everything for 5 minutes of the film. And then it would take about two days to shoot for that build. Then I would take it all down and start building for the next five minutes. I wrote the script simultaneously as I built each segment from an outline, allowing for an interaction between both processes - the build informing the writing and the writing informing the build."
Q. Why dolls?
"They're cheaper. Just kidding. The choice to use dolls was two-fold: one because of their thematic relevance and two because I have worked with dolls in the past and noticed that dolls affect audiences differently than human actors. They get laughs, yes, but they also tend to garner a surprisingly greater emotional response. But seriously, they do make scheduling easier."
Q. What inspired you to tell this story as a satire?
"I based Junie's story on real things I saw - in my own life, in the news. Though the film is fiction, the story is based on actual human behavior and events. Satire draws out the absurdity, and as the world has become more and more absurd, I felt a satire was in order. However, in spite of the humor, the film is also disturbing. I didn't want to make a film that was watered down so that it was more "palatable." A more palatable film would be dishonest. This film is crass. It's gross. It's how it really is. I've always loved the work of Trey Parker and Matt Stone and I think you can see that in the film."
--Nicole Brending, 2018