Not what I expected from this Netflix original
by Martin Hafer
When I saw that a new documentary just came out and it was gaining a lot of attention in social media, I assumed I knew what the film would be–about countless women being exploited by evil pimp-like guys. Well, the truth for the women in this picture was quite a bit different. Sad, but very different.
A camera crew somehow was allowed into a home owned by a young entrepreneur named Riley. Riley recruits girls 18 to 25 years old from Craigslist. However, he doesn’t trick them in any way — he offers them airplane tickets to his home in Miami and they move there specifically to make porn. The home is filled with a half-dozen or so aspiring “actresses,” and the crew interviews them, following the ladies on some of their jobs. They are there to have sex on camera and supposedly live an exciting life in the sun.
The part about all this that surprised me is that the film doesn’t show strung-out drug addicts or illegal aliens forced into sex slavery. Instead, the girls seem to come from rather normal backgrounds and they want to be porn stars for fast money — bored girls with no thoughts about tomorrow. And while I am sure some will find my words harsh, they seem incredibly vacuous and selfish. AIDS, pregnancy and the realities of the industry seemed irrelevant to these stars. To me, they are simply out to have a good time and that’s all that matters to them … end of story. This brings us to a major weakness in the film. You really don’t care about these ladies because they all seemed to know exactly what they were getting into. And they weren’t very nice folks. They seem completely amoral and self-absorbed, so it really was hard to find much in the way of meaning to all this. As a father of two daughters, I was horrified by these women and their attitudes, but felt at least in these stories, they were involved with their eyes wide open. Most of the time. The proliferation of rape and violence porn came as a surprise to me and some of them, as their fun lives (as they put it) stopped being fun when they were deliberately hurt or completely degraded in a few of the films. This part was a bit shocking as well as quite sad, and this was one case where I did feel for a couple of the girls, as they were raped or nearly raped to satisfy some guys’ bizarre fantasies.
Overall, this film is mildly interesting but overly long. I really think with some trimming, it would have had a greater impact. As it is, I just found myself a bit bored with some of the girls’ stories, though I was at least happy to see that a few of them chose to leave this self-imposed life. Technically, the camerawork was okay and the viewing experience was much like watching a reality TV show as opposed to a typical documentary. Interestingly, the film’s executive producer is Rashida Jones, Quincy Jones’ daughter who played Ann on Parks and Recreation.