Sally Tomato’s Toy Room (2010) Film Review

Sally Tomato’s rock opera, Toy Room, arrived with a cover that boasted of four acts and ten accumulated laurels from the 2009 festival circuit. I pretty much always watch rock operas with hesitation, for their qualities are largely determined by the quality of their music. Toy Room was met with similar levels of hesitation.

The music of Toy Room is mostly competent, falling under all genres, from synthpop and alternative to hard rock and new age. There’s even an electronic track replete with Autotune! Not all of it is top-notch, but there are a couple songs that stand out; the rest are generic songwriting central, but they seem to fit pretty well with this film. Take that as you will.

What did seem like it took intensive time and energy was the editing. Toy Room was originally a stage-performed rock opera, the film swaps between scenes filmed from live performances to clips of weird karaoke-cheesy shots. The transition scenes are heavily edited, with fade-ins and montages galore. Whoever edited this film decided to pull out all the stops, and stylistically, it seem like every basic post-production trick was included… in an early ’90s sort of way.

Toy Room tells the story of a young lady who grows up lonely, finds refuge in her fantasy world, becomes involved in a shoddy marriage, and then finds freedom in rock concerts and coincidental self-enlightenment. Like the editing, the storyline goes all over the place and was certainly aiming kind of high when it was crafted. Nonetheless, some of the songs and lyrics are downright dumb; one childhood flashback recalling Sally’s purchase of a doll features a boring alternative rock song with horrendously mundane lyrics: “Don’t worry about the price/ Just pick one that’s nice.” And to describe the doll: “She has big eyes and a frozen tear/ There is no crying here.” Remedial English lyrics, galore.

It is the moments when the play/film/music turns slightly darker that the music is actually tolerable. That makes the accompanying visuals in those scenes also somewhat tolerable.

Musically, stylistically, and visually, this film is all over the place… and I have a hard time determining who on Earth the target market could possibly be. No matter, though. I can’t say I would really recommend this film to anybody, despite the hours and hours, I’m sure, that were put into it. To the filmmakers’ credit, though, everyone certainly went all out. Balls to the wall, if you will. I suppose if it were the actual performance and not a hodge-podge of a DVD, things would fare slightly better.

Written by
Vivian Hua 華婷婷

Vivian Hua 華婷婷 (they/she) is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer. As the Executive Director of Northwest Film Forum in Seattle and Editor-in-Chief of the interdisciplinary arts publication, REDEFINE, much of their work unifies their metaphysical interests with their belief that art can positively transform the self and society. Vivian regularly shares human-centered stories through their storytelling newsletter, RAMBLIN’ WITH VEE! In 2021, they will begin production on a BIPOC metaphysical comedy film entitled RECKLESS SPIRITS. They are passionate about cultural spaces, sustainable practices, and finding ways to covertly and overtly disrupt oppressive structures. YEAH!

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Written by Vivian Hua 華婷婷
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