In the new thriller Cam, which releases simultaneously on Netflix and in theaters Friday, pretty much all that cam girl Alice (The Handmaid’s Tale‘s Madeline Brewer) fears could arise. But what surprises is the specificity of his fears. Alice is afraid, of course, that her mother, younger brother, and the rest of their small town in New Mexico will find out about her night shift. And she’s probably not the only one who fears that a client or two will break through the substantial but naturally imperfect wall she’s built between her professional and personal life. But most of his days are spent worrying about the details of his work: does his act push the boundaries enough? With which clients does it need to maintain relationships and at the expense of which others? Will she one day be online enough to be part of her site’s Top 50?
Alice is a sex worker, with all the risks that comes with it and the occasional humiliation – and this dark, neon-lit film never shies away from that fact. But Alice is also an artist. In front of the camera, she is a convincing actress and improvises in the role of the sweet but whimsical “Lola”. Behind her, she is a screenwriter, director and scenographer. (Decorated with oversized flowers and teddy bears, the guest bedroom she uses as a backdrop appears to be Barbie After Hours themed.) So when the unimaginable happens, Alice’s account is hacked and a doppelganger begins to play his number, with less originality but more popularity, his indignation is also ours.
The film finds issues – and a resolution – whose freshness is difficult to minimize.
Corn Cam takes his time to understand this mystery. That’s more than good, as the film, written by former webcam model Isa Mazzei and first-time director Daniel Goldhaber, immerses us in the dual economy of sex work and online attention. The slow revelation of the everyday realities of cam-girling is the real striptease of the film, all surrounded by an aura of authenticity. (Little Bladder Alice, for example, constantly apologizes to her clients for the frequency of her bathroom visits.) And although Alice denies that the career she chose had anything to do with a personal feeling. empowerment of women, the film assumes something unspoken but unavoidable. feminist consideration of sex work. The mismatch between Alice’s apparent consistency and Lola’s exaggerated performance, sometimes involving blood capsules, is just the tip of the iceberg. More fascinating is the sense of security and control that webcam modeling provides – and how delusional it can become when men’s rights are unleashed over social intricacies.
If the first half of Cam is pleasantly episodic and purring, the second half – in which Alice searches for her hacker – is smart, inventive, and wonderfully evocative. A kind of Black mirror for cam girls, her fears are limited to this tiny slice of the web, but are nonetheless resonant for that. We see Alice striving to maintain a certain level of creative rawness, even as the machine in front of her is pressuring her to become a sort of automaton herself. And versions of the scene where a desperate Alice calls the cops for help with the hack, to face confusion on the net and suspicion about her job, have undoubtedly played out countless times. over the past two decades. At the intersection of an industry that didn’t exist a decade ago and an ageless profession that is rarely portrayed candidly in popular culture, the film finds stakes – and resolution – whose freshness is hard to underestimate.
The wonderfully versatile brewer, who is in virtually every scene, essentially performs three “characters”: Alice, Alice as Lola and Bizarro Lola. It is a performance of bravery that oscillates between several realities while keeping the film anchored as the twists of the plot make narrative leap after narrative leap. CamThe villain is perhaps more of an admirable provocation than a satisfying answer. But with such naked ambition displayed, who could turn away?