At 17, high-school junior Shirley Lyner is thinking about college and running a babysitting service that provides teen call girls to the dads of young children. In a long flashback, we see what brought her from being a babysitter to organizing and running the service. It starts with Michael, the father of children she baby-sits. A cup of coffee on the way home from his house, a night visit to a train yard, and one thing leads to another. Shirley can be ruthless, and tension builds when some of the clients take the girls to a mountain cabin and bring drugs. Then, one of the girls tries to freelance. Can this end well: is it a tragedy in the making? Do we all have secrets? Written by
Shirley Lyner. I'm a junior at Alfred E. Groves high school. This is my babysitting service. The answer is no: mom doesn't drink, dad didn't hit me, Uncle Steve never showed me his privates. I don't even have an Uncle Steve. The money is nice, and paid fellatio isn't that much more humiliating than flipping burgers. But that's not why I do it.
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The well-acted indie drama "The Babysitters" takes what appears on the surface to be fairly salacious and distasteful material and turns it into a scathing attack on contemporary mores and values.
Shirley (Katherine Waterston) is an attractive suburban high school student who decides to make a little extra money babysitting for the young son of a local couple. When the husband, Michael (John Leguizamo), who is clearly unhappy in his marriage, pays to have sex with her at the end of the night, Shirley comes up with a scheme to parlay that into a full-fledged teen-prostitution ring, with Michael lining up other clients among his married buddies and Shirley setting herself up as a sort of "madam," "hiring" her friends from school to serve as under-aged "call girls." But the folks involved soon discover that, when it comes to affairs of the heart and of the loins, one can't always dictate how things will turn out.
Writer/director David Ross aims at a wide range of targets, from the sterility of suburbia and middle class marriage to middle-aged men who refuse to grow up and who, instead of serving as moral guides for the girls, are willing to exploit them for their own perverted needs - to the capitalist system itself, at least as embodied by the "enterprising" young entrepreneur, Shirley, who often has to stoop to ruthless and dictatorial tactics to ensure the viability and survival of her business.
But always, beneath it all, there is the intense sadness and emotional emptiness of the situation, as these attractive young ladies - who are really just confused and insecure kids under all the makeup, sexy clothing and alluring bravado - find themselves getting into something they can neither fully understand nor fully control. Even Michael seems unable to separate the sex from his own more romantic feelings for Shirley as he battles with jealousy thinking about her with other men. Perhaps, the most indicting line of dialogue comes from one of the creepier gents who cluelessly proclaims that one day, when these girls are all grown up, they will look back on this time as one of the greatest of their lives. Yet, paradoxically, the exploitation goes both ways, as these "naïve" girls, particularly Shirley, wrap a bunch of immature middle-aged men around their little fingers, ultimately using the men's uncontrollable libido against them.
It is this complicated twist that gives the film its darkly humorous tone and makes "The Babysitters" more than just a titillating and exploitative exercise in finger-wagging moral umbrage.
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