Sometimes, you just want to turn off all of the politics and tune in to a good movie. If you’re in the mood to stay in this weekend – or any other day, but especially on the weekend – this writer suggests seeking out a Netflix watch.
To that end, I have for all a review of a movie called Cam, now available on the streaming platform. It’s a horror/tragedy hybrid about sex work and identity in the online age. Sure, it may not be what you’d expect or suggest watching when you’re in the mood to “party” (I hear Venom is now on digital), but if you’re looking for something smallscale but resourceful and engaging, heed my words and read the following review:
According to an article in Filmmaker Magazine, the new Netflix film Cam has the directorial authorship given to both the director Daniel Goldhaber and writer Isa Mazzei, as “a rebuke to director-oriented auteurship.” Indeed, in the tradition of giving due credit to the screenwriter, much like Network’s Paddy Chayefsky or The Social Network’s Aaron Sorkin, Cam is in an illustrious and most important field – one that turns back the clock a bit on auteur theory. Where this movie will land in history, time can only tell, but for the moment, for 2018, Cam ranks as a high-end, high-note best. Out of a horror fought between man and avatar, between individual female and digital pixie copy, comes a challenge set at our feet, by a collaborative storytelling power team, that demands the attention of binge-watchers everywhere.
Based on Isa Mazzei’s experiences as a former cam girl/sex worker, Cam follows an overly determined yet fairly vulnerable Alice, AKA “Lola”, whose online show and chatroom is a playhouse on the notions of fame, of voyeurism and exhibition, of pleasure, and of self. We are introduced to her during one such evening session, which ends in a brutally fake suicide, designed to get points from her audience that will help her climb rank among this website’s other girls. It is never out of our minds that, this being the internet and this being America as we know it, other sites must be in operation too. Now, she does earn money doing these shows, earning these points (tips), and agreeing to private sessions, but the idea that this is but a pond compared to an ocean of other similar sex services that operate off the creative and most physical efforts of women, visited often by anonymous users doing anything and everything below their wastes, is, by itself, sad and unsettling. Of course, the film goes further.
Cam never takes the poor/easy position of this sex work being “wrong” in any way, and that is a great thing. What it does, however, is suggest that a little perspective and context should always be on our minds when considering the topic. One bemused uber-fan, who has a tendency of crossing in person boundaries often, misreads Alice’s signals often, leading to many an awkward and uncomfortable confrontation, the kind that women should call the police about. This, while it happens, is not technically the story here. What does trigger a call to the police is some entity having stolen her show and her image, creating a sort of distrust of reality with her. All she wants is to be the best at this, and someone or something else has taken her online identity. What ultimately follows is a climax for the books, one that dives headfirst into its own hell, only to claw down for more.
With many an inventive composition and movement, staggering unison of editing and sound, and a script that never settles for simple answers or resolutions, Cam is a tragedy, unlike many others. It’s dystopian now. It’s a road that follows back into itself, repeating on and on. It’s a data-mosh where all that matters in this or that world is persona. Is the reality you make. And you know what the scariest thing of all is? The movie is right. Videodrome has become true. The new flesh is here, and it’s in real time on our phones and crowdfunded. Welcome to the machine. Welcome to the rest of your life.
Alice calls the police over, only to get treated like a piece of meat (of course). One makes the moves on her, the other dismisses her claims with some lazy “what did you expect when you went online?” kinda short speech. Her life is valuable, officer, no matter what she chooses to do with it or how she presents it. What is of concern is our collective hive mind, tuned in to faux celebrity turned actual celebrity. What is of concern is that lessons won’t be learned, but rather re-written to fit our own ends. What is of concern is where all of this will lead years from now. What’s the next iteration, and what will we turn into as a result? The world may not be ending with a bang or a whimper, but it will off itself with a stroke. Of the keyboard, and of … well …
RATING: 5 / 5
Cam is now playing on Netflix
Bill Arceneaux is the lead content writer for Big Easy Magazine. In addition to this, he has been an independent writer and film critic in the New Orleans area since 2011, working with outlets like Film Threat, DIG Baton Rouge, Crosstown Conversations, and Occupy. He is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association and is Rotten Tomatoes approved. Be sure to check out his film reviews and other articles here.