New Thriller Is Like Dark Mirror for Cam Ladies
In the new thriller Cam, 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 worried, of course , that her mother, 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 customer 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 fretting about the details of her work: Does her work push enough boundaries? Which in turn patrons should she progress relationships with— and at which usually others’ expense? Can she 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 reality. But Alice is also a great artist. In front of the camera, she’ s a convincing actress and improviser as the sweet but fanciful “ Lola. ” Behind it, she’ s a writer, a director, and a set artist. (Decorated with oversize flowers and teddy bears, the extra bedroom that she uses as her set appears to be themed Barbie After Hours. ) So when the unimaginable happens— Alice’ s account is certainly hacked, and a doppelgä nger starts performing her act, with less originality 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, seeing that the film, written by past webcam model Isa Mazzei and first-time director Daniel Goldhaber, immerses us inside the dual economies of sex work and online focus. The slow reveal from the day-to-day realities of cam-girling is the movie’ s genuine 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 bathroom visits. ) And though Alice denies that her chosen career has anything to do with a personal sense of female empowerment, the film assumes an unspoken nevertheless unmissable feminist consideration of sex work. The disjunct between Alice’ s appearing to be regularness and Lola’ s i9000 over-the-top performances— sometimes affecting blood capsules— is the idea of the iceberg. More attractive is the sense of security and control that webcam-modeling allows— and how illusory that can become when individual entitlement gets unleashed out of 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 type of ruskie porno Black Mirror for camshaft girls, its frights will be limited to this tiny piece of the web, but no less resonant for that. We see Alice strive to maintain a certain standard of creative rawness, at the same time she’ s pressured by the machine in front of her being something of an automaton himself. And versions of the field where a desperate Alice message or calls the cops for improve the hack, only to be faced with confusion about the internet and suspicion about her job, have doubtlessly performed out countless times before two decades. At the intersection of an industry that didn’ testosterone levels exist a decade ago and a great ageless trade that’ ersus seldom portrayed candidly in popular culture, the film finds stakes— and a resolution— whose freshness is not easy to understate.
The wonderfully versatile Machine, 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 facts while keeping the film grounded as the plot changes make narrative leap following narrative leap. Cam’ s i9000 villain perhaps represents more an admirable provocation when compared to a satisfying answer. But with such naked ambition on display, who also could turn away