*PSA: this movie deals with themes of sex and sex workers. I’m going to be using terms here you might not be comfortable with, if that bugs you, don’t read it.*
Synopsis: A young cam girl discovers that someone has taken over her livelihood. Instead of sitting around and collecting the pay this advanced AI is collecting for her, she fights back and breaks her nose in the process.
Year Released/Director: 2018, Daniel Goldhaber
Funniest Part: This movie didn’t have a funny part so much as a “why am I watching this” part. At one point, in her attempts to rise through the ranks of FGL (the website she works for), she collabs with another girl and rides this thing called a Sybian. After being warned by several other girls that it could cause her to lose all sensitivity, she does it anyway. We are then subjected to this very strange scene where we’re watching her internally debate whether or not to fake an orgasm and therefore break one of her three rules. Her partner is controlling the speed and intensity of the machine, guided by the tips of the viewers watching the live stream. At one point, another girl comes in and asks the two what they want for dinner. There’s just so much happening and I don’t know what to think.
This scene wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t gone on for 3 minutes.
What they did right: They didn’t shame the main character for being a cam girl. Even when she was revealed to her family and friends, not a single one attacked her with Bible verses or screamed at her for being a whore.
Also, the acting was superb! It really seemed like Alice and Lola were different people. Madeline Brewer, in my mind, is best known for her roles as Tricia in Orange is the new Black and Janine in A Handmaid’s Tale. In both of these roles she plays different characters than what we see in this film, making her one of my new favorite actresses and one we may see on the silver screen sometime soon! Not only was Brewer a great actress, but so was the whole cast. The men were equally creepy and awkward, Alice’s mom was just about as “mom” of a character as you can get, and her brother, though he had a small role, took up space and became important to the plot.
Finally, the cinematography and special effects were wonderful. I wouldn’t say anything specific stood out to me, but it wasn’t like it was so bad I had to mention it. It used a lot of lighting cues to signal Alice’s mood and that theme carried through the rest of the film.
Thoughts from Interviews:
Those involved with the film are aware of the impact this movie has on representation and are proud to be bringing representation and awareness to the cam community. Madeline Brewer said “the responsibility of art in any medium is to hold a mirror up to society and…this is a large part of society,” which I just love. They even made a point to show clips of the film to people in the industry to make sure they felt properly represented and included.
The writer of the film, Isa Mazzei actually worked as a cam girl herself, so a lot of the inspiration for the film came from her experiences. The director, Daniel Goldhaber did as well for the sake of the film, which I thought was very interesting that he was inspired to step out of his comfort zone to get a first hand look at the world they were ingratiating themselves into.
In this interview, they also mention deep fakes which is what I initially thought this movie would be about before I watched it. If you’re not familiar with deep fakes, all you have to do is search that term in YouTube and you’ll figure it out. Anyway, this is an actual issue in the world of porn. People plaster the faces of other people onto the faces of sex workers and essentially have their way with them without that person’s consent.
My favorite quote from this interview is when Madeline says (and I’m chopping up her quote here a bit to make more sense) “I’ve done nudity in my career before, and this was the very first time that it didn’t feel exploitative….at every single turn, every moment of nudity was…inconsequential….yeah I’m naked but there’s also a lot of other things happening.” I just love that because that’s exactly how I interpreted the film as I watched it.
There is a theme of Alice in Wonderland strewn through this story, the main character’s name is Alice, and the usernames Mad Hatter and Mr. Teapot appear as the film goes on.
Apparently, there is also a deleted scene that sheds light on what the thing really is that took over Alice’s online persona. I did some digging, but wasn’t able to find the clip on YouTube. Here’s a quote from the trivia portion of the IMDB page “There is a deleted scene that suggest the mysterious figure that has taken over Alice’s online persona, is in fact an algorithm. Taking over hundreds of hours from Lola’s past videos to create content that would attract abundance of viewers. Hence the AI or the algorithm could produce content without any physical or moral restriction set by Alice.” Later on in this review, I’ll be talking about my take on this theory.
So this movie was actually not terrible. I was expecting it to be a poorly made romanticized movie about what it’s like to be a cam girl. Now listen, I’m not a cam girl but I’ve watched some documentaries and encountered a few in my time on this earth and let me tell you, with the millions of directions this movie could have gone, I’m glad it went this way.
The movie is about this girl named Alice who is impersonated on her cam girl account by some kind of AI that has stolen not only her face, but the face of at least 5 other girls as well. We never find out what the thing stealing her face is, but I’m kinda glad for that fact because I was waiting for the film to cheapen the thrill by including bodysnatchers or aliens or something, but they didn’t, so I was at least relieved at that.
Alice is a cam girl that has a loyal following and is ranked at 65 at the beginning of the film. She quickly realizes her dream of being in the top 50 is about to become a reality when there is an overwhelmingly positive response to her faking a suicide. Which, by the way, this movie doesn’t deal with themes of suicide, but there are two faked attempts and there’s a lot of blood in both.
Anyway, after she pulls out the large knife she, for some reason, keeps in her chest of sex toys, she feigns slicing through her neck and her rank skyrockets. This events gets her all jazzed up and even makes her a threat in the eyes of some of the more popular cam girls on the site. The top girl, Baby, is the topic of most of these girls’ conversations about rank and such. Baby rarely does anything but sit on her bed, fully clothed, and talks to the camera, so they don’t understand why she has such high rankings.
The movie as a whole is about a girl wanting to be the best at her job. It isn’t about camming necessarily, that just happens to be the field in which she works. I can’t say for sure that sorority-type houses full of other cam girls really exists, but that’s neither here nor there, I’m sure they took some creative liberties with this film.
It’s about Alice wanting to do well and being tenacious and doing whatever it takes for her to be the best. She is smart, doesn’t often take no for an answer, and carries a fucking taser around with her for self defense. She has a few sugar daddies and even meets them in person at one point, keeping her trusty taser within arm’s reach.
Alice is close with her mother and brother and, while she only interacts with them a few times, we find out her brother knows about her camming, but her mother does not. Now, this is a bit weird to me. I can understand being open about your sexuality, but exposing that kind of imagery to your brother is a bit much. Like, yeah, tell him you faked a suicide attempt on your stream last night, but maybe don’t show him the thumbnail. I don’t know how most guys minds work, but I know that if I saw my brother on a cam site, I’d never look at enough brain bleach to wash it from my mind. But hey, that’s just me. I’m glad he’s supportive of her work. Her mom, however, has no idea, and it takes a very embarrassing moment at her brother’s party to find out. After that, she’s still not keen on the idea, but the movie doesn’t really go into it.
The main plot of the movie begins when Alice discovers that she can no longer log in to her account and someone else is currently live streaming. They are not only in her cam room, but they look just like her. She immediately goes into her cam room, but doesn’t find anyone. Rather, the screen is playing what she thinks is an older video. However, she soon realizes its live when she makes a fake account to message her. She calls the website and asks what they can do, but because this is not something that ever happens, they’re just like “sucks to suck” and she hangs up.
She’s rightfully freaked out when this happens, but after talking about it with other cam girls, including one she has beef with, she’s essentially kicked out of the cool girls club.
Alice, undeterred by her stupid friends, decides to get down to the bottom of this mystery on her own. With the help of some hardcore Googling and a date that nearly gets her kidnapped, she finds out the top performing star, Baby, is also being impersonated by this thing. She learns that the girl it’s impersonating is dead as well as about 5 other models. She also discovers that one of her top supporters is also the top supporter of each of the girls that went missing.
This guy, Tink, as he’s known, is obsessed with Lola (Alice’s pseudonym for performing). He’s so head-over-heels, he rents out a motel near her house and is looking for a job so he can be closer to her.
She finds this out, and, while initially creeped out by it, later uses it to her advantage. After Alice finds out that he’s got something to do with these girls, she visits him at his skeevy motel and finds out he knows something but not everything. He tells her “it” mimics their faces, but he doesn’t know how. The guy is actually useless. After tasing out a confession that he really doesn’t know what’s going on. She gets the bright idea to use a mirror and live stream herself into the stream fake Lola has going. She shows her supporters what’s going on, and because the think mimics her face, she breaks her nose on her vanity table, resulting in a brief lag between Lola’s real face and Alice’s broken one. Thankfully, her fans realize what’s happening and Lola is persuaded to give Alice her password. Alice then deletes her account and starts from the beginning all over again with her new, crooked nose, and it ends with her ranked 1,000 something and essentially getting right back on the horse.
Now that you know the spiel, let’s talk about plot holes. I have six specifically to mention (in no particular order).
Thing 1: So, as it was established, Alice is very close with her brother. He’s supportive of her dreams, and it’s a secret between them. During the awkward birthday party his friends find out about Lola and give him a hard time about it. He ends up getting in a fight with one of his friends over it, which results in their mom finding out.
What bugs me about this is that, later on, during the collab with Baby, Lola shows the camera a picture of her brother. No, every TV show, movie, and song in recent years showcases how harsh cyberbullying can be. It can even lead to suicide which was already a theme that this film toyed with. If anyone at this kid’s school watched that livestream, it would spread like wildfire and that kid’s life would be ruined. Maybe they didn’t include all of that because it would distract from the main theme, but it seems like a big thing to overlook.
Thing 2: The AI (or what I assume is AI because this movie never gives us a concrete name for the monster), is so advanced, it has gone unnoticed in about 7 performers, one of which is the top performer, since, at the very least 2014 when the girl behind Baby died. It doesn’t seem to have a directive behind it, no one we meet is actively benefiting from the money Alice is supposedly losing, and there aren’t any supervillains or aliens to blame. Yes, it’s inexplicable, but it’s an AI with no intention besides impersonating girls on a cam site. What is Alice so scared of?
This brings me to my next point, normally, when you make an account somewhere that earns you money, you attach it to a PayPal account, bank account, or something like that. Unless this AI is all-powerful, why is Alice so worried that it’s stealing her money? She’s still using her bank cards to purchase tokens to tip the fake Lola to do things, so it’s not like her account is hacked. Why can’t she just sit back and let the coin roll in without doing anything for it?
Thing 3: This movie is focused on Lola and Alice. We also find out that Baby was impersonated and the girl who she was before camming is dead. Alice is still alive though. Why don’t we learn what happened to the other girls? It might have offered some clarity to what her fate might have been and she might not have had to explore dead ends like Tink or nearly get kidnapped.
Thing 4: How did the AI mimic the rest of Alice’s house if the camera she uses to record never left her cam room? How can she move props around, like the photo of her brother? At one point, while collabing with Baby, the two make their way through Alice’s house, but in the stream, she claims they’ve never seen her actual house or room, so how could the camera know what it looks like without Alice ever having moved her camera?
One could make the argument that whatever the AI is could be using the webcam on the laptop she takes everywhere, but unless a video exists somewhere else of her touring her house, there’s no way it could have nailed the angles it did. Not to mention, the AI could have easily hacked into her computer if that was the case and not only attacked her cam girl profile, but all of her social media, therefore negating the plot point that the new Lola doesn’t recognize Alice as her imposter when they video chat.
Evidently there is a deleted scene that explains all of this away, but I highly doubt that even with a camera moving around every inch of her house, fake Lola would still be able to interact with her surroundings like she did.
Thing 5: There are no dudes in this film besides the men on the other side of the live shows. I find this particularly unnerving because the director himself cammed before making this film to gain knowledge about the process. While he wasn’t s professional like Issa, it was still a valid experience and one men on cam sites do actually experience. I realize cam girls and cam guys might not hang out in that sorority-type clubhouse together, but why can’t the AI impersonate men too?
Thing 6: Finally, there is this random girl that Alice meets in the store. Their body language and odd inflections led me to believe they were exes. However, she invites her to her brother’s birthday party and seems amicable towards her. This girl is essentially useless and I think only exists to give us one more person to assume is messing with Alice. However, she’s not even considered when Alice is asking around for help. She’s pretty much swept under the carpet and forgotten as the actual plot unfolds. I don’t understand why she exists.
Okay folks, there’s my review of the movie “Cam.” Overall it was good, but there are definitely some plot holes I didn’t understand. Let me know what you thought about it. I would love to chat with you about it.
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