New Thriller Is Like Black colored Mirror for Cam Ladies
In the new thriller Camshaft, which premieres simultaneously in Netflix and in theaters on Friday, pretty much everything that cam girl Alice (The Handmaid’ s Tale’ s Madeline Brewer) fears might happen does. What surprises, nevertheless, is the specificity of her fears. Alice is reluctant, of course , that her mom, 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 buyer or two will breach the substantial but understandably imperfect wall that she has developed between her professional and private lives. But most of her days are spent fretting about the details of her work: Does her react push enough boundaries? Which patrons should she grow relationships with— and at which will others’ expense? Can the lady ever be online enough to crack her site’ s Top 50?
Alice is a intimacy worker, with all the attendant hazards 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 actress and improviser as the sweet but fanciful “ Lola. ” Behind it, she’ s a writer, a movie director, and a set artist. (Decorated with oversize blossoms 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 can be hacked, and a doppelgä nger starts performing her act, with less originality but more popularity— her indignation is ours, also.
The film finds stakes— and a resolution— whose freshness is hard to understate.
But Cam takes its time getting to that mystery. That’ s more than fine, while the film, written by past webcam model Isa Mazzei and first-time director Daniel Goldhaber, immerses us inside the dual economies of making love work and online attention. The slow reveal in the day-to-day realities of cam-girling is the movie’ s true 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 selected career has anything to carry out 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’ t over-the-top performances— sometimes concerning blood capsules— is the tip of the iceberg. More exciting is the sense of security and control that webcam-modeling allows— and how illusory that can become when male entitlement gets unleashed out of social niceties.
If the first half of Camshaft is pleasantly episodic and purringly tense, the latter half— in which Alice searches for her hacker— is clever, imaginative, and wonderfully evocative. A kind 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 normal of creative rawness, while she’ s pressured by machine in front of her being something of an automaton their self. And versions of the arena where a desperate Alice telephone calls the cops for assistance with the hack, only to become faced with confusion about the web and suspicion about her job, have doubtlessly performed out countless times before two decades. At the intersection of the industry that didn’ t exist a decade ago and a great ageless trade that’ h 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 teen xxx porn flits between several facts while keeping the film grounded as the plot twists make narrative leap following narrative leap. Cam’ ersus villain perhaps represents considerably more an admirable provocation than a satisfying answer. But with such naked ambition on display, who could turn away