“Sex Doll” is a salacious title, but this superficially mysterious character study from Sylvie Verheyde is constructed more like a Russian doll: The script peels away layers of possibility until it becomes clear that there is almost nothing underneath.
The movie doesn’t credit any source material, but it plays like a poorly dramatized magazine exposé.
Preserving a sense of intrigue, at least for a while, is Hafsia Herzi, whom devoted art house moviegoers will recognize as a bright spot from films by Abdellatif Kechiche, Alain Guiraudie and Bertrand Bonello. She plays Virginie, a high-end prostitute living and working in London for a madam (Karole Rocher, whose look and manner suggest a Gallic Julianne Moore) who treats her like a prized possession.
Early in the film, Virginie meets Rupert (the gangly Ash Stymest, speaking quite a bit of French) after he trails her and a friend (Lindsay Karamoh) into a nightclub. While the skull-and-crossbones tattoo on Rupert’s hand isn’t a red flag for Virginie, his persistence in following her ought to be.
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There is also his reaction when she asks him to share a childhood memory: “I haven’t got any memories,” he says, the sort of line a screenwriter might try (Verheyde wrote, in addition to directing) that would probably prompt questions in real life.
That’s better than the last line, however, which comes after “Sex Doll” has given up its secrets, which aren’t especially shocking to begin with.
(At Screenland Armour.)
Not rated. Time: 1:42.
Some French with subtitles.