Friday, August 12, 2011

The Babysitters

When's the last time we had a movie review on this blog, hey?

I discovered this little gem on Netflix a couple of nights ago, and was shocked at how great it is, because I'd never even heard of it before. On its surface, the film isn't much different from any other naughty babysitter premise. Shirley babysits for young-ish couple. Cute dad Michael (John Leguizamo) drives her home one night, and they end up making out. When it happens again and they end up having sex, Michael feels guilty and gives her $200 instead of whatever her usual paltry babysitting fee might have been.

At this point, The Babysitters veers off the usual formula slightly, as Shirley (played beautifully by the gangly, long-faced Katherine Waterston, who towers a full head above Leguizamo) embraces her entrepreneurial side and makes a business of it, enlisting her friends to "babysit" for Michael's friends. Madam Shirley operates her brothel through cell phone calls and notes left in her school locker, taking 20% from her girls and maintaining a neat calendar of appointments on her computer. Obviously, this idyllic situation cannot last, and like any good mafia movie, The Babysitters sets Shirley up for a fall.

By far the most refreshing thing about The Babysitters is the fact that the cast of teenage girls looks extremely plausibly teenage. Their mostly make-up free faces, awkwardly developing bodies, ordinary clothes (Shirley seems to live in not-so-tight jeans and borderline-frumpy sweaters) make them seem so real, and so much more like actual children than hot fantasy babes, and this gives the entire film a truly creepy tone.

These girls are, on the one hand, totally in charge of their own mini empire. On the other hand, they are in entirely over their heads and embroiled in a self-destructive and downright depressing misadventure. As Shirley struggles to keep control of the business she's built (battling other girls' rival startups, and the like), Michael starts to have misgivings, feeling more and more guilt about the monster he helped to created. The film treats Michael's love for Shirley as real, but thankfully doesn't give him much sympathy for it - after all, what kind of moral high ground can a father of two who's fucking his teenage babysitter really have, regarding her lucrative prostitution business?

A funny and at times really disturbing plot is elevated to 'awesome status' by brilliantly realistic casting and a pull-no-punches approach to treating everyone as equally bad, guilty, and deserving of some kind of punishment. No one gets away easy in The Babysitters, which is as it should be.

No comments: