When it comes to film, there are always moments where some people will tread into the downright bizarre nature of things. The Babysitters is a kind of movie that does that. I rather enjoy the bizarre or the kind of independent film that isn't afraid to take things to a whole new level. But taking things to another level doesn't really make for a good movie. The Babysitters is one of those things that perhaps some will be uncomfortable with. That's not exactly something that makes for a bad movie. In fact, some of the best movies around were movies that sort of made us feel uncomfortable at times. If not uncomfortable, they at least showed us something shocking. Shock, in and itself, can be a good thing... when say... A Clockwork Orange came around with all its shocking moments, it was to convey a message. If the shock illicited by The Babysitters is there for any reason at all, I've not found it. This is because The Babysitters is a movie that seems to have potential but never really falls through with any of it. You can call it perverse and all that fun stuff, but the films subject matter hardly plays a role in just how bad you may or may not see it.
The film centers on a girl named Shirley Lyner (Katherine Waterston) explaining to us just what it is she does. Her "babysitting" business is really a call girl business where a bunch of her friends get together with a bunch of middle aged men and get paid to do it. Right off the bat it should become pretty clear what this movie is about. Underage prostitution. Fear not, dear viewer, Shirley is quick to let us know within the first five minutes or so that the reasons she does this are strictly her own. She was not abused as a child and she wasn't neglected. Right off the bat she is letting those know that nothing "caused" this and that there's nothing wrong with her at all. It was, as far as she was concerned, a way to make money.
Afterwards the movie quickly flashes back a few months where we see Shirley being picked up for a babysitting job by Michael Beltron (John Leguizamo). There's an obvious attraction between the two. Michael has slowly lost interest in his wife, who seems rather controlling to begin with. When they go out and leave their troubled kid with Shirley it becomes clear that the romance in Michael's marriage has run dry. This becomes clear when after his night out with his wife he brings her to a trainyard because he really enjoys trains... but she isn't taken in by it at all.
Soon Michael and his wife return home and Shirley is there scrubbing away, making everything look perfect. Clearly she didn't have to do that (and clearly we know why she did). She needs a ride home, and as a result is also hungry because she hasn't eaten. It takes no time whatsoever within these moments for Shirley and MIchael to admit they have feelings for one another. And pretty soon things get intimate and heated. As a result of their sexcapades, Michael begins paying Shirley extra and looking forward to the nights when she can babysit. Of course, Michael can't seem to keep his mouth shut. He mentions something to one of his friends, who quickly wants to be in on the action. Can Shirley find a friend for his friend? It turns out Shirley can. She uses her friend Melissa (Lauren Birkell) to do it for her. Melissa goes out with Michael's friend and comes back with a ton of money. Shirley, finding that her plans actually worked, decides she's entitled to a 20% cut for arranging it and setting it up, to which Melissa agrees. Soon Melissa is getting a few of her friends together and is running a Call Girl service disguised as "Babysitting."
Before anyone starts with their own screams of immorality, it should be known that... first of all, this movie CLEARLY isn't for kids. So I don't want you screaming about it. Second, the movie is also fiction and is not representative of all teenage girls... only these particular teenage girls. Third, there's no actual sex that's shown. There's a lot of sensuality, but there's nothing here that's too risque, really. So while the premise in and of itself may sound a bit shocking, it's not realy a shocking movie. And for the most part, it was a movie with potential. It had a chance to really say something but never quite does. There are some scenes that might make some uncomfortable (particularly a scene involving a cabin and ecstacy) but the movie is hardly unsettling. It's just... for the most part... really drull.
To begin much of the acting just isn't really that satisfying. Katherine Waterston in particular, just doesn't come off as believable in any sense of the word. About the only thing she can do well is stare at John Leguizamo. But when she's supposed to be the boss of this Call Girl Business, and when she's having meetings with her "employees," so to speak, she hardly comes off as anything more than dull and boring. She often carries the same expression through the entire film and speaks in the same monotone voice throughout the whole thing. Even in moments of despair or complete happinesss she wears the same brooding expression throughout. There's just no personality on screen. It isn't just Waterston, it's just about the entire cast. Granted most of them aren't experienced actors and actresses, but the fault therein lies mostly with the director David Ross, who doesn't do much to work with his actors or get better performances out of them.
The second biggest problem has more to do with the writing and overall narrative flow. It's uneven and underdeveloped. It's bad enough that David Ross didn't do much to illicit emotion from his actors. What's worse is that he doesn't give the characters he's written much personality or much development. Here he seems more focused on whether or not he can shock you with the premise of the whole film. As such many of the plot twists and whatnot fall flat. The final twist involving Shirley, in particular, feels forced. When it comes up the only thing that really went through my mind was how it was possible for it to happen given what Ross has given the audience to work with. There's no clear foreshadowing afront and instead it's used as a big surprise. But perhaps the worst part about it is that it just ends. You're given a forced climax... but no real resolution. It's very rare when one of the things I pick at a movie for is being too short. But The Babysitters is. Instead of trying to find ways to shock us it might've been nice to actually have some character development and emotion. Shock is usually not a bad thing in the grand scheme of things. Often times it can (and often is) used to say something. Behind the shock is usually a message of some kind. The Babysitters doesn't make it clear it has a message. Indeed, it probably doesn't. Not every movie does. And this would be nice if it actually had some real sort of plot or story to it. There's not much, and there's hardly anything done to make you care much about the characters. Even in one of the film's most disturbing scenes you find it hard to really care about the character in particular. The entire film is so devoid of emotion that by the time it's over you're left wondering what lasting impact.
Much of that just comes from having a horribly written screenplay. Before anyone jumps to the conclusion that the movie is glorifying prostitution... it's not. If you think it is, it's because you tuned in expecting it to offend you (why anyone would watch a movie for the sake of THAT is beyond me, but many many people do... a lot). It's quite clear that if there's one thing the movie really gets at, it would be that the life of prostitution is not glamourous. There is one particular scene that shows us this, and this is when one of Shirley's employees is high on ecstasy and starts freaking out while she's supposed to be "working" and in a sense, it becomes clear that this isn't something to jump into. Unfortunately the scene itself isn't nearly as impactful as it could be. The movie NEVER touches upon other big dangers of prostitution. But it most certainly doesn't portray the life in and of itself as glamourous.
It's hard to really judge The Babysitters. It's a movie that had potential, but the emotionless acting and even more emotionless script is a pretty big deal. It's just not a movie you're going to remember for any sort of plot or anything like that. It has some shocking (and some might find disturbing) images but aside from that, what you're mostly getting is a bad movie.