Most children lose interest in dolls as they grow older. The eccentric characters that populate the wildly entertaining documentary Living Dolls are different.
There's Mike, an adult male who lives with his parents, his boyfriend and a sizeable collection of Barbie dolls. He's preparing to embark on his first Barbie convention, and he's nervous and uncertain of the experience which awaits him there. During his closeted adolescence, Michael threw away all of his Barbie dolls. But once he came out to his family and proclaimed his true self, he reinvested in his collection with great vigor, and with the support of those closest to him.
Then there's Michael, an older gentleman whose home doubles as a workshop. Among the piles of papers, envelopes and tools, Michael tinkers diligently to strip away all the accoutrements of each doll, including the costumes, the hair, and the plastic skin coating. What remains are bare-boned metallic figures that more strongly resemble robots than Barbie dolls.
David's passion for dolls goes deeper than the mere thrill of collecting. He harbors no shame in admitting the moments of extreme intimacy he shares with these eerily life-like works of silicon art. He's not alone in his peculiar proclivities. The film follows him as he attends an annual meeting of literal doll lovers just like himself.
Finally, there's Debbie, a beautiful young wife and mother of two whose addiction to doll collecting is depriving her family of a better life. Her extraordinarily patient and understanding husband pleads for an end to his wife's spending habits. It's clear that her compulsion stems from a missing element in her life that she can't quite define.
These subjects live far outside of the norm, but the film examines each of their stories without judgment. Do their unique passions represent harmless forms of self-expression? Or do they signify an unhealthy balance in their psyche? Some are hopelessly lost in their obsessions while others seem to have finally found their greatest confidence and comfort within them.
Deceptively simple and comic on the surface, Living Dolls actually provides a thoughtful psychological study of the ways in which we all fight to defeat loneliness and find our happiness.