Melbourne International Film Festival Review: Doll & Em (UK, 2013)

doll-and-em

One of the entries in MIFF’s Big Scene – Small Screen program, Doll & Em is an unassuming portrait of a friendship that succeeds with a delightful mix of undeniable heart and unobtrusive style.

Doll (Dolly Wells) and Em (Emily Mortimer) have been best friends since childhood. When Doll unceremoniously breaks up with her boyfriend, Em – a famous actress, shooting a film in LA – offers her a job as her assistant with the best of intentions, but it begins to create unforeseen cracks in their friendship.

On the surface it may seem a little slight, but it’s not a show that needs grand set pieces or intricate plotting. Doll & Em is simply a candid portrait of a best friendship, the likes of which we don’t often see on television. Co-created by Wells and Mortimer themselves with collaborator Azazel Jacobs, the show is clearly a labor of love for the two actresses, and it’s their relationship that makes the show so worthwhile. Playing slightly left of centre versions of their real life selves, Doll & Em are both complex, well drawn characters in a show that’s deliciously self-referential – whether it’s “wasn’t she in Shutter Island?”, or the heartwarming conclusion that brings the series full circle. Big names such as Chloe Sevigny and Susan Sarandon provide hilarious moments, but the humour ebbs and flows with a kind of subtle honesty that relies on the bizarre nature of Hollywood for laughs.

The six episodes of this quirky meta-mockumentary provide just the right length for the rather simplistic arc of the ups and downs of friendship and fame, and while it’s not the most memorable piece of work you’ll see at the festival – Doll & Em boasts just the right level of charm to win you over.

Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Doll & Em screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival with all six episodes – totalling 126 minutes – earlier tonight and on Monday, August 4th at 6.30pm. Tickets and more details can be found here: http://miff.com.au/program/film/5831