thatcow

Why does a dummy get to be such a smart ass?

For the shy person, what device could be any more of social crutch than a ventriloquist's dummy? Just think about it - anything you make the dummy say can be instantly forgiven as not actually being "you". Insults and off-color remarks that might ordinarily embarrass the hell out of you will scarcely be noticed by those around you. And what about making conversation? Simply start talking with your dummy, and eventually someone will feel the need to join in.

This would seem to be the idea that inspired Dummy. Steven (Adrian Brody) is a deathly shy guy, still living at home when he decides out of the blue to pursue a career in ventriloquism. His parents find this turn to be just another odd quirk, and his sister (living at home as well) outride derides him for the attempt - not that her life is that much better: her wedding planning business is on shaky ground, and obsessive ex-fiance Michael enters the film from time to time like a loose cannon waiting to go off.

Steven applies for unemployment, and immediately falls for Lorena, the clerk who is trying to find him a job. Steven makes some poor attempts to get her attention, which doesn't help since she has a daughter and already is skittish.

The scene stealer is Milla Jovovich as Steven's friend Fagora (or Fanny to those close to her), a barely self-contained punk rocker singer who wears her heart as much on her sleeve as Steven keeps his hidden away. She cusses out her band constantly and is desperate for a gig, so much she claims they do Jewish Klezmer music in order to play a wedding, and watching her learn Hebrew (or is that Yiddish?) and dragging her band through it is simply joyful. By the way, we can tell this film was done on a fairly low budget here as it appears nobody else in the band actually speaks.

Brody essentially plays two characters - Steven and the dummy, or you could even consider it Steven playing the dummy. The film never truly imbues the wooden simulacrum with any Pinocchio-esque awareness, but there are moments where they suggest Steven's unconscious mind is speaking his deeper truths. It would have been easy to go overboard on this, but they keep just the right balance on the dummy's role in his life.

Like most films, there are some unlikely coincidences which push the plot along, but it's all very close to something that really could happen with this set of characters. Their feelings are real, they act like real, if slightly odd, people, and that's what is so often more interesting about independent films. No trails are blazed here, either in the story or in how it's done, but Dummy is honest, light-hearted, and pleasantly warm.

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