Eye For Film >> Movies >> B (2017) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Films like Team America may make the sex lives of Barbie dolls seem replete with possibility, but for the B at the heart of this film, what might once have been passionate now feels distinctly artificial. Sitting alone in a restaurant waiting for her man, she observes the people around her, particularly the women. She's shocked to see two women who are clearly together asked to leave. When her man arrives, takes her steak and orders her something that he deems more suitable, she falls back into routine. She'll work out in the gym, trying to stay thin. They'll have mediocre sex. One day he'll propose. Why does that disturb her? Why does she seem so discontented with the life that has been made for her?
Life in plastic is not always fantastic. Though not a word is spoken for the first 13 minutes of the film, wonderfully expressive animation lets us see the longing in B's eyes; tiny gestures are all she's capable of, but they're enough. Other dolls' faces convey emotion more crudely, opening their mouths in shock or twisting them in disgust at her small efforts to express herself. The colour red, from wine to roses, seems to follow her, yet attracts increasing opprobium as she is drawn into a monochrome world. One day, B is pushed too far, and picks up a knife.
The simple but poignant central tale is given depth by numerous small observations. B's obvious attraction to other female dolls snaps off like a light going out when she's reminded of the role that she's supposed to play. Her dreams of what a same sex relationship might be like are as conventional as one would expect from her packaging - liberation only goes so far. She can't imagine herself alone but neither does she imagine that she could compete with established lesbians. Then there's her continued attraction to her man, which seems to be real, and to complicate her sense of where she belongs (is she the oft-forgotten B in LGBT?), though she grows increasingly aware that it comes with social trappings she wants nothing to do with.
Dolls are not a new metaphor in feminist thought but the use of one who comes pre-packaged with a whole domestic world adds to the sense here that the personal cannot be separated from the political and that B will have to make some hard choices. A stack of B dolls in a supermarket seems to be selling much more than play. Images of spilled wine and spilled blood intersect: the mundane and the unthinkable. Perhaps all B really wants is for somebody to see beyond her sweet, blank smile.Reviewed on: 12 Jul 2017