Review: Netflix’s “Cam” film displays the horrors of virtual sex work

In Lifestyle
The cam girl looks into a mirror and poses in front of a camera.
(Photo courtesy of Netflix)

Netflix’s newest thriller film, “Cam,” exposes an audience to interesting concepts and struggles concerning the world of virtual sex work, and the film uses theming from Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass” as a storytelling motif.

The film is loosely based on the life of script writer, Isa Mazzei, who was formerly a cam girl. This is the first movie script written by Mazzei, and the quality of the dialogue shows her inexperience in some cases. Through some of the acting and the concepts of the plot though, the psychological thriller elements keep the viewer engaged.

The first impression of main character, Alice (Madeline Brewer), is that she is sweet, innocent, and in touch with herself and her fans, but the viewer soon learns that her online personality Lola, draws her further away from her real-life personality.

Lola performs her live show in the middle of an all pink room, adorned with shagged carpets and neon lights.

The stylized aesthetic harkens back to movies like “Spring Break,” and the story concept later in the film is reminiscent of “Black Swan,” where the character experiences a personality struggle.

Alice falls into the “looking glass, when she wakes up to find herself locked out of her cam girl account. The rest of the movie, Lola takes on a life of her own and we follow Alice as the main protagonist. She is on the outside looking in at Lola performing the online web show without Alice’s control. Lola and Alice are people that are theoretically the same, but Lola begins to take Alice far from a place she thought she would ever go.

In the beginning of the movie, Alice has set some clear standards for her character Lola when performing live online; she doesn’t do public shows, no faking orgasms and doesn’t tell clients she loves them. Although to Lola, the only objective is to reach as low a ranking as possible, and these rules may get in the way.

When characters refer to the ranking saying “You can drop 10 points easily.” It makes you wonder, at what cost? Maybe you are getting closer to the goal of a lower rank, but in doing so, does Alice lower her own standards, dignity and self respect in the process?

Through the movie the viewer grows some sympathy for our protagonist, Alice, you wonder who is doing this to her, who is the actually enemy in this plot? Alice begins to point the finger at other cam girls, and even at past clients that she has had relationships with. When Alice looks a little further, it becomes clear that the only enemy is in the mirror. Though the only thing reflected in the mirror is Lola, a person that has become so disconnected from who Alice actually is they eventually become two separate entities.

The movie raises some interesting issues about a person struggling with a fragmented personality. The themes poke at fears of online popularity, the privacy of the information that is put out there and the effects of performing such an erotic profession on a public domain like the internet.

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