The Austin Chronicle

Dallas Doll

Not rated, 104 min. Directed by Ann Turner. Starring Sandra Bernhard, Victoria Longley, Frank Gallacher, Jake Blundell, Rose Byrne.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Sept. 15, 1995

With Sandra Bernhard, irony is everything; she revels in the stuff. In the Australian film Dallas Doll, her impertinent bad-girl persona -- characterized by a delivery so deadpan that you never really know when she's serious and when she's putting you on -- overwhelms everything to the point of distraction. For all its aspirations -- and what they are is never exactly clear -- Dallas Doll is little more than a vehicle for Bernhard's patented sneer and mock sincerity. As the eponymous title character, she plays an American golf pro who goes Down Under to create interest in her profession and ends up becoming a New Age cultural guru of sorts. She also ends up seducing most of the members of the family with whom she is staying; in golfspeak, she swings her club both ways. (Make no mistake; this is nothing like the gorgeous Terence Stamp sleeping with parent and child, both male and female, in Pier Paolo Pasolini's exceptional Teorema. Here the pansexuality plays like an in-joke about Bernhard's personal life.) At its best, Dallas Doll is a droll, flaky satire on the cult of personality. At its worst -- and that's for most of its duration -- it's a silly, pointless movie that collapses under the weight of Bernhard's one-note sarcasm and a bizarre ending involving poor Sandra surrounded by a herd of cattle. (Don't even ask....) Some critics have found Dallas Doll to be a modern-day parable about the subversion of Australian culture by corruptive outside influences. An interesting assessment, but one that is generous and way off par. What Dallas Doll needs is some discipline, a little of the Zen that its heroine espouses for the perfect game of golf. Like the incomparable but unpredictable Bernhard, without it, it's nothing.

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