New Thriller Is Like Black Mirror for Cam Young ladies
In the new thriller Camera, which premieres simultaneously on Netflix and in theaters about Friday, pretty much everything that camshaft girl Alice (The Handmaid’ s Tale’ s Madeline Brewer) fears might happen does. What surprises, while, is the specificity of her fears. Alice is scared, of course , that her mommy, younger brother, and the associated with their small town in New Mexico will discover her night job. And she’ s probably not alone in her worries that a buyer or two will breach the substantial but understandably not perfect wall that she has created between her professional and private lives. But most of her days are spent worrying about the details of her work: Does her work push enough boundaries? Which in turn patrons should she enhance relationships with— and at which usually others’ expense? Can the girl ever be online enough to crack her site’ s Top 50?
Alice is a sex worker, with all the attendant dangers and occasional humiliations— and this moody, neon-lit film never shies away from that fact. But Alice is also an artist. In front of the camera, she’ s a convincing occasional actress and improviser as the sweet but fanciful “ Lola. ” Behind it, she’ s a writer, a director, and a set designer. (Decorated with oversize plants and teddy bears, the free bedroom that she uses as her set appears to be themed Barbie After Hours. ) So when the unimaginable happens— Alice’ s account can be hacked, and a doppelgä nger starts performing her act, with less appearance but more popularity— her indignation is ours, as well.
The film finds stakes— and a resolution— whose freshness is difficult to understate.
But Cam takes its period getting to that mystery. That’ s more than fine, as the film, written by previous webcam model Isa Mazzei and first-time director Daniel Goldhaber, immerses us in the dual economies of intimacy work and online attention. The slow reveal with the day-to-day realities of cam-girling is the movie’ s real striptease— all of it surrounded by a great aura of authenticity. (Small-bladdered Alice, for example , constantly apologizes to her clients for the frequency of her bath wytryski na twarz room visits. ) And though Alice denies that her selected career has anything to do with a personal sense of female empowerment, the film assumes an unspoken yet unmissable feminist consideration of sex work. The disjunct between Alice’ s appearing regularness and Lola’ s i9000 over-the-top performances— sometimes concerning blood capsules— is the tip of the iceberg. More amazing is the sense of security and control that webcam-modeling allows— and how illusory that can become when natural male entitlement gets unleashed coming from social niceties.
If the first half of Camera is pleasantly episodic and purringly tense, the latter half— in which Alice searches for her hacker— is clever, imaginative, and wonderfully evocative. A form of Black Mirror for camera girls, its frights are limited to this tiny slice of the web, but no less resonant for that. We see Alice strive to maintain a certain regular of creative rawness, even as she’ s pressured by the machine in front of her being something of an automaton herself. And versions of the picture where a desperate Alice calling the cops for aid in the hack, only to come to be faced with confusion about the web and suspicion about her job, have doubtlessly played out out countless times during the past two decades. At the intersection of an industry that didn’ big t exist a decade ago and an ageless trade that’ s seldom portrayed candidly in popular culture, the film finds stakes— and a resolution— whose freshness is difficult to understate.
The wonderfully versatile Coffee maker, who’ s in just about any scene, pulls off essentially three “ characters”: Alice, Alice as Lola, and Bizarro Lola. It’ h a bravura performance that flits between several realities while keeping the film grounded as the plot changes make narrative leap after narrative leap. Cam’ h villain perhaps represents extra an admirable provocation than the usual satisfying answer. But with many of these naked ambition on display, exactly who could turn away