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The Babysitters (A Movie Review)

Updated: Nov 3, 2022

The Babysitters

The Babysitters


Starring John Leguizamo, Katherine Waterston, Cynthia Nixon, Lauren Birkell, Louisa Krause, Halley Wegryn Gross, Andy Comeau, Denis O’Hare, Jason Dubin and Ethan Phillips.

Screenplay by David Ross.

Directed by David Ross.

Distributed by Peace Arch Entertainment.  90 minutes.  Rated R.

Looking at the poster of The Babysitters may impart the wrong idea. A young woman is in the middle of lifting her t-shirt over her head, exposing a taut belly and a wad of bills.

While in some ways, this image is accurate to the film, it only scratches the surface of what a complicated, ambiguous film this is.

In fact, this is probably the most inexplicit film about sex-for-sale you’ll ever see. Not because it is in any way prudish or making moral judgments, but because the goal of this story is so much deeper than titillation.

Even after seeing the film, the viewer is full of questions – which is a good sign. If you’re questioning it, you’re thinking about it. If you’re thinking about it then it has moved you, one way or another.

Is The Babysitters a black satire of suburban angst, an unrequited love story, a titillating teen sex drama, a glance at male mid-life crises or a cautionary tale about the allure and escalating risks of crime?

Actually, it’s a little bit of all of those, though not totally successful on any of these fronts.

Still, it mostly works and is always intriguing.

Shirley (Katherine Waterston, daughter of Law & Order DA Sam Waterston) is a smart, beautiful, shy, obsessive-compulsive high school student. She is trying to make good grades, pick up some extra money for college, maybe get to know the cute brother-in-law of two of her friends.

She has also developed a bit of a crush on Michael (John Leguizamo), the father of one of the children she babysits for. While Michael is happily married to Gail (Cynthia Nixon of Sex in the City) he is flattered by the attention and a little intrigued himself. One night when Michael is driving her home, they start to flirt. Then they start to kiss. He feels guilty, so when he drops her off he gives her a huge tip.

The next time he takes her home, it goes even farther. Another huge tip out of guilt. Soon his friends are looking for new “babysitters” themselves. Shirley gets some her friends together to deal with the dads and keeps 20% of all tips. Demand outstrips supply and what starts out as a way to make some college money quickly becomes a business.

Shirley, who thrives on order, watches as her life gets more and more out of control.

This storyline touches on a whole slew of hot-button issues: prostitution, adultery, violence, rape, drugs, organized crime, some may even say pedophilia. (The girls are 17-year-old seniors in high school, so while they are legal in most states it’s awfully close to jailbait in many quarters.)

However, on a much more basic level, The Babysitters is a tale of unrequited love and a dissection of the shifting balance of power in Shirley and Michael’s relationship.

There are no easy answers in The Babysitters. Though the screenplay was too savvy to burden the story with a predictable climax in which the people of this world have to pay for their sins by doing time in prison, that doesn’t mean that these people have gotten off scott free. These characters will be living with their actions for a long time.

And, likely, you will thinking about them for a long time, too. That is the mark of a good film.

Ken Sharp

Copyright ©2008  All rights reserved.  Posted: May 9, 2008.

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