New Thriller Is Like Dark Mirror for Cam Ladies
In the new thriller Cam, which premieres simultaneously in Netflix and in theaters upon Friday, pretty much everything that cam girl Alice (The Handmaid’ s Tale’ s Madeline Brewer) fears might happen does. What surprises, even though, is the specificity of her fears. Alice is scared, of course , that her mommy, younger brother, and the rest of 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 imperfect wall that she has constructed teen lesbian sex video between her professional and private lives. But most of her days are spent worrying about the details of her work: Does her action push enough boundaries? Which patrons should she enhance relationships with— and at which in turn others’ expense? Can the girl ever be online enough to crack her site’ s Top 50?
Alice is a making love worker, with all the attendant hazards and occasional humiliations— and this moody, neon-lit film hardly ever shies away from that simple fact. But Alice is also an artist. In front of the camera, she’ s a convincing presenter and improviser as the sweet but fanciful “ Lola. ” Behind it, she’ s a writer, a home, and a set custom. (Decorated with oversize blossoms and teddy bears, the extra bedroom that she uses as her set seems to be themed Barbie After Hours. ) So when the unimaginable happens— Alice’ s account is definitely hacked, and a doppelgä nger starts performing her act, with less inspiration but more popularity— her indignation is ours, too.
The film finds stakes— and a resolution— whose freshness is not easy to understate.
But Cam takes its time getting to that mystery. That’ s more than fine, seeing that the film, written by former webcam model Isa Mazzei and first-time director Daniel Goldhaber, immerses us in the dual economies of intimacy work and online focus. The slow reveal on the day-to-day realities of cam-girling is the movie’ s genuine striptease— all of it surrounded by an 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 perform with a personal sense of female empowerment, the film assumes an unspoken yet unmissable feminist consideration of sex work. The disjunct between Alice’ s seeming regularness and Lola’ h over-the-top performances— sometimes concerning blood capsules— is the hint of the iceberg. More interesting is the sense of security and control that webcam-modeling allows— and how illusory that can become when natural male entitlement gets unleashed out of social niceties.
If the first half of Cam is pleasantly episodic and purringly tense, the latter half— in which Alice searches for her hacker— is clever, resourceful, and wonderfully evocative. A type of Black Mirror for camshaft girls, its frights happen to be limited to this tiny slice of the web, but no less resonant for that. We see Alice strive to maintain a certain common of creative rawness, whilst she’ s pressured by machine in front of her being something of an automaton their self. And versions of the picture where a desperate Alice calls the cops for assistance with the hack, only to get faced with confusion about the net and suspicion about her job, have doubtlessly played out out countless times in the past two decades. At the intersection of an industry that didn’ big t exist a decade ago and a great ageless trade that’ s seldom portrayed candidly in popular culture, the film finds stakes— and a resolution— whose freshness is hard to understate.
The wonderfully versatile Brewer, who’ s in virtually every scene, pulls off essentially three “ characters”: Alice, Alice as Lola, and Bizarro Lola. It’ s 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 over a satisfying answer. But with many of these naked ambition on display, who could turn away