The Movie Waffler New to MUBI - PVT CHAT | The Movie Waffler


pvt chat review
A directionless New Yorker becomes infatuated with a cam girl.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Ben Hozie

Starring: Julia Fox, Peter Vack, Buddy Duress, Nikki Belfiglio, Austin Brown

pvt chat poster

The internet has changed sex work in a positive way, replacing the dangers of the streets with the comfort of the bedroom, living room, bathroom or wherever else a "cam girl" chooses to broadcast her shows from. You wouldn't know this from movies however, as thus far the cam girl trade has been portrayed in sensationalist fashion in various low rent thrillers that see cam girls preyed upon by their clients, who are invariably portrayed as dangerous creeps at worst, suckers at best. The truth is that cam girls are some of the least exploited workers you could find. They get to choose their own hours, set their own rates, don't have to deal with any superiors and can get rid of an annoying customer at the press of a button. Sure beats breaking your back in an Amazon delivery centre.

pvt chat review

The marketing for director Ben Hozie's PVT Chat would have you believe his film is yet another thriller about the dangers of the internet, but it's being wildly mis-sold. While it does feature an element of criminal behaviour, PVT Chat is actually a surprisingly sweet and rather romantic comedy in the vein of '80s movies like Electric Dreams and Mannequin, with a heavy dash of the cringe comedy of Albert Brooks thrown in for good measure.

Jack (Peter Vack) is a directionless twentysomething New Yorker who barely ekes out a living playing Blackjack online. Most of his winnings are squandered on a cam girl site, where he encounters the alluring San Francisco based Scarlet (Julia Fox, a case of nominative determinism if ever I've seen one). Unlike the other cam girls, who yawn their way through their sessions with Jack, Scarlet seems to take a genuine interest in his Walter Mitty-esque ramblings about developing an app that will allow users to read each other's thoughts.

pvt chat review

While out shopping in Chinatown one night, Jack is shocked to see Scarlet in the aisles. When he asks her about this later online, she denies it, swearing she lives on the West Coast. But when Jack's friend (Buddy Duress, another case of nominative determinism) spots Scarlet entering her home, Jack is determined to meet the object of his online fantasy in the flesh.

Filmed in a cinema verite style that borders on the amateurish, PVT Chat presents its world in the most unglamourised manner possible. Jack and Scarlet are two Millennials attempting to make a living through means that would have been unthinkable a generation earlier, and Hozie presents them without judgement. Of course, the viewer will have their own preconceptions about how Jack and Scarlet have chosen to live. I have to admit, upon meeting Jack, I took an instant dislike to him with his constant stream of bullshit and manic countenance, but by the end of the movie, thanks largely to Scarlet peeling away his facade to reveal a lonely little boy, I had grown to like the nebbish. Equally humanised is Scarlet, who behind the leather and whips is just another young person who like Jack, is simply trying to stay afloat. There's a scene of mutual masturbation that is as romantic a moment as you'll witness in American cinema, as Scarlet drops the act and genuinely pleasures herself in Jack's (online) company.

pvt chat review

The real skill of the film is that it both opens and closes with the image of Jack on his knees masturbating frantically while Scarlet verbally abuses him, yet while we initially view Jack as something of a pathetic figure, by the film's end we've accepted his kinks and the unconventional path he's chosen. They say you shouldn't judge someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes. PVT Chat suggests you should spend 90 minutes in someone else's cum-crusted tighty-whities before casting aspersions. The worst thing about the internet is that it's turned so many of us into self-righteous scolds, so it's nice to see an online focussed film adopt such a refreshingly open-minded view of two people many of us might look down upon from our moral perches.

PVT Chat
 is on MUBI UK/ROI now.

2021 movie reviews