Review by Robert Bell
It's interesting how the feminist movement of the last forty years, that has taken so much work, heartache and struggle from so many pioneers, has been tossed out the window by the modern teenaged girl. Young women look like ten cents a dance as of late, in their skin tight jeans, midriff revealing tops, gaudy J-Lo hats, Nicole Ritchie sunglasses, excess lip-gloss, big tacky earrings, pointy whore boots and overpriced purses, while smacking gum and yapping incessantly on their cell phones about who like gave them like attitude and like who stole their like boyfriends and what a like bitch they are. It's a Hills watching generation of intellectually stunted Paris Hilton following skanks. Let's hope for their sake that prostitution is legalized within the next ten years so they at least have a trade to fall back on aside from marrying rich.
Strangely, the main hookers in The Babysitters don't dress like the aforementioned tartlets (the secondary ones do, however), but they do have the same plucky go-getter attitude. They work within their own controlled environment, essentially using horny married men to pay their impending college tuition, while they in turn are used as sperm depositories. It's a consistently engaging watch, progressing in a logical fashion without any forced characterizations or revelations, but leaves a great deal of meaning to subtext that some of the actors are unable to convey.
Financially strapped, eager-beaver, high school brainer Shirley (Katherine Waterston) finds herself boinking the male counterpart (John Leguizamo) of one of her babysitting gigs. Her delusions of romance are quashed when Michael (Leguizamo) hands her a couple hundred bucks for the "good time" - essentially implying that she is a whore. This is driven home when he calls her up asking if she has any underage trim for his buddies to partake in.
Shirley puts on her passive-aggressive entrepreneurial hat and brings her sassy friend Melissa (Lauren Birkell) and her dippy follower friend Brenda (Louisa Krause) into the fold, acting as a pimp. All is fine, until Brenda decides to have her skanky sister Nadine (Halley Wegryn Gross) solicit her vagina for the cause. Not wanting to give up 20% of the profits, Nadine decides to take on the pimp role herself and enlist her own legion of teen hookers, who ultimately steal business from Shirley and Co.
When niceties and idle threats get Shirley nowhere, she takes the game a step further using violence and vandalism as a means to communicate her point.
With a nod to feminism, Babysitters attempts to keep the teen girls in the driver's seat for the duration of the film, having only Brenda struggle with moral crisis. While this helps to diminish the obviously distasteful implications in a film of this nature, it also isn't entirely believable. Aside from the single-minded and almost sociopathic Shirley, the gang are too typically teenaged to be perfectly okay with porking men who are the same age as their fathers for money. In fact, the sexual encounters are treated mostly as a secondary montage to the power struggles within the circle of the young women.
Despite these strains in credulity, the cast, for the most part, does a rather impressive job bringing their characters to life. In particular Lauren Birkell and Louisa Krause, who both show natural screen presence in addition to their ability to elevate their characters beyond second fiddle. John Leguizamo is fine as a horny middle-aged perv, as are his buddies (mainly Andy Comeau), but paints his character too likable and friendly considering the nature of his behaviour. As Shirley, Katherine Waterston gives a mixed performance. She handles her character with a cold detachment, which works for the most part, except that she is unable to radiate the warmth of character that the voiceovers imply should be there. The writing lets the audience know how to feel about her actions and motivations, but Waterston's performance doesn't allow for full engagement.
As a story, Babysitters works quite well. The build up, conflict and motives are all clear and believable; driven by David Ross' solid direction. He paces the film well, keeping it interesting and surprisingly light. There is an air of impending doom throughout the film that shows skill in tonality and consistent vision.
On the whole, Babysitters is an impressive directorial debut that features a talented upcoming cast. This is definitely one worth checking out, despite a couple of flawed performances and breezily glossed over issues. The message that--fellatio may be no different than flipping burgers for money, but it's a great deal easier to offer your father a burger than a blowjob--is an interesting one, if nothing else.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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