Cam | Directed by Daniel Goldhaber | Horror | TV-MA | 1 H 34 MIN
By Marcus Ogden
Cam is a great film on Netflix right now that I think has flown under a lot of people’s radars. A solidly fun and thrilling film with unexplored subject matter and an unpredictable series of twists and turns and film that leaves you with something substantial to chew on and think over afterwards. It’s the social media thriller that so many have tried to make and an excellent meditation on how the persona we perform online and our obsession with that performance can overtake our lives. Headed by writer Isa Mazzei and director Daniel Goldhaber, who shared the opening credit, they execute its message deftly without pretension.
The film follows Alice (Madeline Brewer), a cam model who goes by the handle “Lola,” who one day finds her stream has been hijacked by someone impersonating her, someone that has somehow managed to look exactly like her. Brewer’s performance, while not a tall order, still deserves some attention. She does a great job of creating a dual physicality, a natural one as Alice and one as her impersonator that’s slightly off-putting. The film from the opening scene smartly establishes its motive, a scene where Alice pretends to kill herself as a ploy for views and tips on her stream. We follow her as we see that her lack of boundaries between herself and “Lola” are driving her in dangerous directions and creating a rift in her relationship with her family. The film executes these messages without talking down to its audience, and without tone deaf writing about how people engage with social media. The screenwriter, Mazzei, draws on her own past experiences as a cam girl to add a layer of authenticity to the story and the characters that few other writers would be able to achieve. The story goes in directions both dark and intriguing that are guaranteed to keep viewers on their toes trying to solve the mystery themselves. The mystery escalates to a final confrontation so interesting I dare not allude to it too much, it’s better experienced. While a critique of social media culture, the film does not attempt to completely disavow it and instead proposes a re-evaluation of our boundaries and how we can sustainably engage with our devices.
An aspect of the film that stands out is how it visually creates a dichotomy between real life and performance by way of everyone’s favourite visual: neon lighting. Scenes focused on performance and its nature; are lit colourfully and take place in more vibrant settings, while scenes where Alice attempts to go through life and solve who has stolen her stream are low-lit or lit with drab colours and placed in mundane sets. Another interesting note about the direction of the film is that, while the film’s narrative lies solely within sex work, the explicit scenes aren’t done in a way that feels exploitive. The camera is focused on narrative, the nudity and sexuality involved treated clinically rather than done in any matter suggesting objectification. The film takes great care to get the viewer acquainted with cam modelling and the realities of it rather than take advantage of it as an enticing vice.
Cam is fresh, intriguing, and exciting. Potent enough to not be empty, but light enough to enjoy on a Saturday night with some friends and some snacks. It may not be high art, but I think it’s fun. A film like Cam is sometimes just what you need during the Oscar season.
Watch the Official Trailer Below