New Thriller Is Like Black colored Mirror for Cam Girls
In the new thriller Camshaft, which premieres simultaneously upon Netflix and in theaters in Friday, pretty much everything that camera girl Alice (The Handmaid’ s Tale’ s Madeline Brewer) fears might happen does. What surprises, although, is the specificity of her fears. Alice is reluctant, of course , that her mother, 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 consumer or two will breach the substantial but understandably imperfect wall that she has built between her professional and private lives. But most of her days are spent fretting about the details of her work: Does her act push enough boundaries? Which will patrons should she grow relationships with— and at which will others’ expense? Can she ever be online enough to crack her site’ s Top 50?
Alice is a love-making worker, with all the attendant risks and occasional humiliations— which 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 presenter and improviser as the sweet but fanciful “ Lola. ” Behind it, she’ s a writer, a director, and a set artist. (Decorated with oversize plants and teddy bears, the spare bedroom that she uses as her set appears to be themed Barbie After Hours. ) So when the unimaginable happens— Alice’ s account is hacked, and a doppelgä nger starts performing her act, with less creativity 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, since the film, written by ex – webcam model Isa Mazzei and first-time director Daniel Goldhaber, immerses us in the dual economies of gender work and online attention. The slow reveal of 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 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 nonetheless unmissable feminist consideration of sex work. The disjunct between Alice’ s seeming regularness and Lola’ s over-the-top performances— sometimes including blood capsules— is the suggestion of the iceberg. More attractive is the sense of safe practices and control that webcam-modeling allows— and how illusory that can become when individual entitlement gets unleashed 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, original, and wonderfully evocative. A type of Black Mirror for camshaft girls, its frights will be limited to this tiny cut 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 the machine in front of her for being something of an automaton himself. And versions of the picture where a desperate Alice calls the cops for assistance with the ebony teen masturbation hack, only to become faced with confusion about the net and suspicion about her job, have doubtlessly performed out countless times in past times two decades. At the intersection of your industry that didn’ big t exist a decade ago and an 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 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 after narrative leap. Cam’ s villain perhaps represents considerably more an admirable provocation than the usual satisfying answer. But with many of these naked ambition on display, who could turn away