Release Date: November 16, 2018 (NY and Netflix)
Director: Daniel Goldhaber
MPAA Rating: NR
Run Time: 94 Minutes
This is a repost of our review from Fantasia 2018. Cam opens in New York and on Netflix Friday.
With every advancement in entertainment technology, the porn industry is consistently an early adopter, capitalizing on new opportunities for erotic interactivity. Live, interactive, webcam shows have been around for some time, but with advancements in streaming technology, higher broadband speeds, a shallower learning curve and lower cost to get started, it’s easier than ever to set up a camera and take your clothes off online for money.
Daniel Goldhaber’s feature debut, Cam, stars Madeline Brewer as Alice, a rising star in the cam world, whose livelihood and possibly own life become at risk when a doppleganger takes over her account.
Alice the “cam” girl, whose stage name is Lola, is wildly different than Alice the person. On camera she’s beholden to her public, carrying out their desires to increase her tips and her rank despite how uncomfortable some of it makes her. In the opening scene of the film she even fakes slitting her own throat just to appease the deranged desires of one of her fans.
Off camera however, she’s a regular, polite, soft-spoken woman who loves and supports her mom and brother (who aren’t aware of her career). While she attempts to keep her work life separate from her home life, she occasionally meets her (or Lola’s) admirers in real life for dates, though never revealing where she lives and seemingly being at least somewhat cognisant of the possible dangers she faces.
Shortly after Alice breaks into the list of the top 50 cam girls one night, she has trouble logging into her account. Upon further investigation she discovers there’s someone else, who happens to look identical to her, using her account and performing in her home. Now, Alice must find out what’s going on and who’s behind it before more than her career is in jeopardy.
Goldhaber plays with themes of personal identity and how they can relate to the profession of an online sex worker. How viewers evolve from a just taking a casual look at the show to becoming avid fans to becoming completely and dangerously obsessed with these women – who, by and large, are not acting as their true selves. The viewers fall in love with a character, a construct of their desire who, in the case of poor Alice, happens to take on a life of its own.
It’s a compelling narrative driven by a solid performance from Madeline Brewer that becomes only more intriguing as Alice dives deeper into this strange technical nightmare she begins living. Because her doppleganger is streaming almost non-stop, it lands Alice in hot water with her family members, who find out what her job is – adding another interesting layer to the film.
It’s a layer that could have been expanded upon a bit more, along with a storyline about one of her fans, with whom she goes on a date and who becomes irate when he sees she’s performing a show while, inexplicably, also out with him.
Cam neither glorifies nor demonizes the job; it simply exhibits a solid thriller that uses the profession’s possible drawbacks and converts them into a clever exercise in horror. Cam is screening at this year’s Fantasia Festival in Montreal.