Bombshells and Dollies follows the 2018 incarnation of the Miss Viva Las Vegas Pin-up competition, where twelve contestants compete in a series of increasingly murky and beguiling categories with the hope of being crowned Miss Viva Las Vegas 2018; the (apparently) highest accolade possible in the pin up world.
This diverse collection of perfect and beautiful women hail from all over the world, each with their own story and road into the pin-up world. Some of them are mothers, some tattooists, some burlesque stars and some community volunteers, though frustratingly we never see them do any of these things. The documentary instead weaves in and out of vox pops with the girls, experts in the field, and – oddly, explanations of classic pin up lifestyle and tropes without us really getting to know the girls involved in the competition.
We begin on a positive foot, revealing the freedom and feminism that are strengths in the burlesque side of the pin-up world; a freedom to be whatever shape, size, ethnicity and type of pinup you – or, your burlesque you – can be.
However, narratively Bombshells and Dollies seems unable to pick one specific destination.
Merging the goals of educating, informing and following a competition together in one 90-minute film is no small feat – and the documentary struggles to create the pathos needed for us to attach our sympathy to all, or even one, of the girls who are competing. Seems the through line of the entire thing is a “who will be crowned the winner” vibe, without attachment to the girls, the whole film comes across as poorly edited collection of clever ideas, without a satisfying resolution.
Commended is the attempt to highlight the various traumas and struggles of the ladies with self-confidence before they found the lifestyle. However, this often intersects with the Rockabilly attitude of a ‘proper woman’, one contestant even referring to her love of vintage garb as ‘not slutty’. The winner of the contestant is crowned at an event which features in a larger Rockabilly festival, and the documentary focusses heavily on the classic car show, the closing bikini party, the founders of the festival and, somehow, tattoos?
All in all, Bombshells and Dollies doesn’t quite hit its target. For someone familiar with the pinup, rockabilly or burlesque world, the interviews and instructions are base knowledge. For the feminist, the girls are not given a voice past brief and transitional pieces to camera. For the documentary lover, there’s no sense of suspense or attachment to anyone in the contest, and no pay off. Which, leaves me wondering who they actually made Bombshells and Dollies for? It’s either a 90-minute advert for Miss Viva Las Vegas, or a chance to look at some super-hot women for a little while. But, is that really that bad? I quite enjoy super-hot women, but – I’d have loved to see more of the women actually doing good.