This is the story of a young woman's experience in a mental hospital and her inability to distinguish fantasy from reality. Emily Browning is the character who is a mental patient, given the cutesy name of Babydoll. She has been put in a mental hospital by her stepfather and blamed for killing her sister which she did not do. The stepfather is the one responsible for the death, so he bribes the hospital attendant to forge the signatures required to have Babydoll undergo a lobotomy to make sure she is unable to remember what actually happened that caused her sister's death.
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The hospital staff is easily corrupted and they take perverse pleasure in abusing the patients. The entire movie continually time-shifts between the time that Babydoll is lobotomized and the experiences she has leading up to the operation as perceived by Babydoll when she is hallucinating.
Babydoll in her fantasy projections, first sees the hospital as a big brothel where the women must dance to please the men and their virginity is sold off to the highest bidder. All the people that appear in Babydoll's fantasy are either patients, workers, or doctors in the mental hospital. The dancers are all patients. They include Amber (played by Jamie Chung), Blondie (played by Vanessa Hudgens), Rocket (played by Jena Malone), and Sweet Pea (played by Abbie Cornish). The doctor Dr. Vera Gorski (played by Carla Gugino) is the dance instructor for the girls. The High Roller (played by Jon Hamm), who in her fantasy is buying her virginity, is the doctor in the mental hospital that will perform the lobotomy on Babydoll.
While dancing in the fantasy, Babydoll has another fantasy within the fantasy where she meets a Wise Man (played by Scott Glenn) in ancient Japan. The Wise Man tells her she must collect five things to escape the mental hospital which include, fire, a knife, a map, and a key, plus one other secret thing. Babydoll gets the other patients in the mental hospital to help her collect these things. She has a fantasy adventure in her imagination about how they are able to bring her the things she needs to escape. Babydoll and Sweet Pea make plans to escape together after they collect all the necessary items. They are successful in escaping the mental hospital but Babydoll realizes the fifth items she needs is self-sacrifice, so she let's herself be caught in order for Sweet Pea to escape.
Babydoll is lobotomized but she has a permanent smile on her face, knowing that she helped her friend Sweet Pea escape. We see Sweet Pea get on a bus avoiding capture. The bus is driven by the man who was the Wise Man in Babydoll's fantasy.
Best part of story, including ending:
The movie is a bit disturbing and confusing until one realizes that these are fantasies of the main character that relate to what she was experiencing in the mental hospital.
Best scene in story:
I like the scene when Babydoll has found peace in her inner fantasy world because it is the only way she can escape all the torment.
Opinion about the main character:
Babydoll is really a good person trapped in severely negative circumstances. Her reaction to the environment and her escape into a fantasy world of her own imagination is fully justified by what is happening to her.