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Opens Feb. 13

New York

NEW YORK -- This twisted thriller about the tender relationship between a man and his anatomically correct sex doll arrives just in time for Valentine's Day in yet another example of the movie industry's penchant for perverse holiday themed releases.

Unfortunately, "Love Object", which uncomfortably totters from psychological suspense to black comedy to pull-out-the-stops horror, never quite lives up to its bizarre premise, and despite its audacious subject matter, it will even have difficulty attaining future cult status. The film opens today for an exclusive engagement at New York's Angelika Film Center.

Robert Parigi's low-budget debut effort depicts the romantic travails of Kenneth (Desmond Harrington), a nerdy and socially inept technical manuals writer whose love life is nonexistent. His life takes a turn for the better when he's introduced by a pair of immature male co-workers to the endless possibilities offered by "Nikki", a highly lifelike and very expensive sex doll that can be ordered on the Internet.

Soon, Nikki, made up to resemble Lisa (Melissa Sagemiller), a comely assistant for whom he has developed a crush, is occupying a prime place in Kenneth's life. Although we are fortunately spared any scenes actually depicting the physical aspects of their relationship, it's pretty obvious that the pair are pretty close, with Kenneth even demonstrating his sensitivity by renting "The English Patient" for a quiet evening at home together.

In the meantime, his newfound confidence attracts Lisa, and the pair, a winning team at work, begins dating. But Kenneth's devotion to his first love eventually provides the inevitable complications, and it isn't long before Lisa winds up in a "Perils of Pauline"-style tussle with her disturbed paramour, who is apparently trying to turn her into a rather less animated love partner.

Parigi takes a cool, deadpan approach to his subject, with the result being that the film lacks the necessary humor -- as such directors as Stuart Gordon or Sam Raimi would no doubt have provided -- to make it entertaining. Nor does the film work on a more serious psychological level, and the borrowed riffs from "Vertigo", including even the musical score, seem less of an homage than a direct steal, albeit one that will go over the heads of most of the audience members.

Harrington brings the necessary creepy conviction to the central role, and Sagemiller is an appealing and sexy presence. Faring less well are veteran actors Udo Kier, as Kenneth's overly nosy landlord, and Rip Torn, squandering whatever career momentum was generated by his brilliant comic performance in "The Larry Sanders Show" with a pallid turn as an unctuous boss.


A ContentFilm release

Credits: Director-screenwriter: Robert Parigi

Producers: Lawrence Levy, Kathleen Haase

Executive producers: Edward R. Pressman

John Schmidt

Alessandro Camon

Director of photography: Sidney Sidell

Production designer: Trae King

Editor: Troy Takaki

Music: Nicholas Pike


Kenneth: Desmond Harrington

Lisa: Melissa Sagemiller

Radley: Udo Kier

Martin: Robert Bagnell

Ramirez: Michael Pena

Dotson: Brad Henke

Jason: John Cassini

Mr. Novak: Rip Torn

Running time -- 88 minutes

No MPAA rating

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