New Thriller Is Like Black Mirror for Cam Ladies
In the new thriller Camera, which premieres simultaneously upon Netflix and in theaters upon Friday, pretty much everything that camera girl Alice (The Handmaid’ s Tale’ s Madeline Brewer) fears might happen does. What surprises, though, is the specificity of her fears. Alice is worried, of course , that her mommy, 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 buyer or two will breach the substantial but understandably not perfect wall that she has developed 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 will patrons should she cultivate relationships with— and at which usually others’ expense? Can the woman ever be online enough to crack her site’ s Top 50?
Alice is a intimacy worker, with all the attendant hazards and occasional humiliations— which moody, neon-lit film by no means 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 overseer, 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 certainly 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 period getting to that mystery. That’ s more than fine, because the film, written by past webcam model Isa Mazzei and first-time director Daniel Goldhaber, immerses us inside the dual economies of intimacy work and online attention. 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 bath room visits. ) And though Alice denies that her selected career has anything to perform 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’ t over-the-top performances— sometimes involving blood capsules— is the suggestion of the iceberg. More attractive is the sense of security and control that webcam-modeling allows— and how illusory that can become when male entitlement gets unleashed via 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, innovative, and wonderfully evocative. A form fuck her in the pussy of Black Mirror for camera girls, its frights happen to be limited to this tiny piece of the web, but believe it or not resonant for that. We see Alice strive to maintain a certain normal of creative rawness, even while she’ s pressured by the machine in front of her to become something of an automaton himself. And versions of the field where a desperate Alice phone calls the cops for assistance with the hack, only to get faced with confusion about the internet and suspicion about her job, have doubtlessly performed out countless times before two decades. At the intersection of your industry that didn’ testosterone levels 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’ h a bravura performance that flits between several facts while keeping the film grounded as the plot twists make narrative leap after narrative leap. Cam’ t villain perhaps represents extra an admirable provocation compared to a satisfying answer. But with such naked ambition on display, whom could turn away