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The American Dream Takes a Beating

“Stray Dolls” is an indie crime thriller set in a low-rent motel and populated by a group of shady characters — a motel noir, in case you like — that throws a contact of feminine empowerment into the same old story of double-crossing at midnight underbelly of the American dream.

If the movie, which was set for a theatrical launch till the coronavirus closings compelled it right into a VOD premiere that begins Friday, manages to face out a bit from related indie movies, it’s due to the attitude of its director, Sonejuhi Sinha. The India-born director comes at this as an outsider and reveals us this sloppy underworld via the eyes of a younger Indian girl who arrives within the U.S. trying to make an trustworthy dwelling however not terribly bothered if she has to sometimes ignore the trustworthy half.

As a female-driven tackle noir, “Stray Dolls” doesn’t really feel as recent as Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy’s “Blow the Man Down,” which premiered on Amazon Prime final month. But it has enjoyable with the style whereas making nods to “Thelma and Louise” and to the local weather in a rustic that has grown much less tolerant of foreigners over the past three years or so.

Geetanjali Thapa stars as Riz, a younger girl who arrives from India and shortly lands housekeeping work at a seedy motel someplace on the East Coast. The motel supervisor, Una, a weary-looking and slightly-accented Cynthia Nixon, acts all heat and motherly for a minute or two, although the primary signal that it’s an act comes when she insists on hanging onto Riz’s passport “until we get you a new one – an American one.” The second signal comes a minute later, when Riz leaves the room and Una feeds the passport into her shredder.

Clearly, no one stays on the Tides Plaza Motel in the event that they’ve received anyplace higher to go, and that features the workers. But the best way to get out? That’s the query confronted by Riz and her co-worker/roommate, Dallas (Olivia DeJonge), who figures the trick is a bit housekeeper housebreaking. At first, Riz appears to be the nice woman to Dallas’ wild little one, however quickly they’re bonding over a shared historical past of transgression – and earlier than lengthy, Riz has lifted a brick of cocaine from one of many rooms and Dallas has enlisted her boyfriend, Jimmy (Robert Aramayo), to promote it.

It’s not arduous to determine that issues received’t go effectively from right here, notably in a film like this — positive sufficient, issues ensue and Riz and Dallas discover themselves in a deeper, darker mess than they’d bargained for. (For younger girls who’re clearly in over their heads, these two are oddly prepared to graduate to extra severe crimes.)

“Stray Dolls” is a personality research of two girls attempting to take company in any approach they’ll, and a noir crime story that places girls entrance and middle. But above all it’s a visit to the darkish aspect of the American dream, the place everyone makes use of illusions and delusions to outlive in a dirty panorama the place they haven’t any actual choices.

Sinha provides the sleazy motel a vividly murky sense of place even because the story doesn’t actually have anyplace to go, and he or she drops in a few splendidly odd music selections, bringing out the dying that at all times lurked in “Danny Boy” after which milking the druggy fantasia that’s Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood’s “Some Velvet Morning” for all its price. But the movie is at its greatest in exploring the gaps between dream and actuality – when Riz will get on a pay telephone and calls her household again in India with updates, she lies to herself as a lot as she lies to them.

“This is America,” Dallas says to Riz at one level. “You want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain. You know who said that? Dolly Parton.”

In “Stray Dolls,” although, there’s numerous rain and no signal of a rainbow. And you may’t get to Dollywood from there.

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