Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Jezebel, or: Nothing Like the Real Thing

It’s really difficult to remember the earlier days of the internet at times: the dial-up speeds, the AOL chat rooms, the GeoCities web pages that made questionable use of Flash graphics. Even then, it was true that the internet was for porn…except of a more pixely, low-resolution variety. This week’s film follows a webcam girl from the late ’90s, and it’s quite a fascinating world. And surprisingly empowering in some ways, though, as with porn, its appeal is a deeply subjective topic.

The Film:

Jezebel (2019)

The Premise:

A young woman living with her sister begins to make her own way by working as a webcam girl in the late 1990s.

The Ramble:

In the late ’90s, Sabrina barely makes a living as a phone sex operator. With two siblings to look out for, a young daughter, and a live-in boyfriend, the shared one-bedroom apartment feels tiny. What’s more is that the family matriarch has been unwell in the hospital for some time…and those bills are adding up.

A woman closes her eyes while on the phone, reclining on a bed wearing a low-cut nightdress.

To help keep the family afloat, Sabrina suggests that her 19-year-old sister Tiffany answer a job ad for an internet model gig–nudity required.

With Sabrina’s help, Tiffany is hired on the spot by brother and sister duo Chuck and Vicky. When asked for her name in the chat room, Tiffany gives the name Jezebel. There are few rules in the chat room beyond no nudity (except in private sessions), no onscreen penetration (which can yield a prostitution charge), and no personal contact information (for safety and financial reasons).

A young Black woman wearing overalls sits next to a white woman holding a computer keyboard, dressed in lingerie.

In the free chat room, Vicky and Tiffany dress in bikinis or lingerie and type flirty messages to their spectators, waiting for one to pay for a private room. Once in a private room, Tiffany is meant to keep the person on the other side of the screen logged in for as long as possible. Vicky does show Tiffany many of the tricks of the trade–none of the sex acts performed onscreen are real, from playing with sex toys to spanking.

The pay is decent, and, with help from her sister, Tiffany learns quickly how to get the most of her clients. She begins to genuinely have affection for a fetish client, Bobby, who responds well to seeing feet and being scolded or ignored. Tiffany even opens up enough to tell Bobby after she’s been to her mother’s funeral, and to give him her PO box and phone number.

A Black woman wearing a long wig sits on the floor of a darkened room, avoiding looking at the camera. Text shows chat messages asking the woman to speak to the sender.

It isn’t long before Tiffany has saved enough money for her own apartment. However, things begin to unravel when a client calls Tiffany the n-word in the chat, and everyone merely tells her to grow thicker skin. Soon after, Chuck calls out Tiffany for ignoring Bobby in a private chat room, despite this being one of his fetishes.

With an offer to move on to the adult film industry, Tiffany isn’t too devastated when she is fired. But when Chuck and Vicky reflect on how much money Tiffany is bringing in, will she return…with demands of her own?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I really enjoy how quiet and ordinary this film feels in many respects. There are elements of Tiffany’s work as a webcam girl that seem creepy or unsettling, and there are certainly exploitative people and businesses in this realm. However, the focus is on Tiffany and the development of her confidence and power rather than the gritty spiral out of control pattern that films with similar themes typically follow. In the work Tiffany does, it’s not so much what she does that’s important so much as whether she has a say in it. Part of Tiffany’s power is in her willingness to label herself Jezebel (quite literally), as well as her reclamation of the word.

While Tiffany’s journey provides the main story line, the relationship between sisters is also essential. Sabrina introduces her sister to the world of sex work, and this is more or less in line with any other sort of job referral. Her experience as a phone sex operator means Sabrina has an understanding of sexual power, as well as the ways in which sex work from a distance can mean greater control. She is there to offer advice and words of caution. Sex work is another way to earn money, which our characters and the film treat with pragmatism and a lack of melodrama.

My biggest complaint about this film is the lack of structure that leaves a lot of questions unanswered. What will happen when Tiffany finally meets Bobby? Will she follow in her sister’s footsteps and pursue a long-term arrangement with him? And what was with Tiffany’s fantasy about one of the other webcam girls–was it exclusively male gaze-y? Because of the nature of this film as sort of a slice of life story, so many questions remain!

Would my lovely blog wife let this one watch her paint her toenails or block it immediately? Find out in her review!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Ginger Snaps: Great (Voluptuous) Minds Think Alike

Prepare yourself for this blog’s first official collaborative film review experience.

I have teamed up with the fabulous Christa of A Voluptuous Mind for a virtual movie date/critique of Ginger Snaps. Be afraid, blogging community—I have a co-conspirator. Double the posts, double the snark (or, more accurately, snark squared).

Check out her post here. Here goes mine:

The Film:

Ginger Snaps

Where to Watch:

Hulu; Youtube; UK Netflix, apparently

The Premise:

Two sisters who have vowed to die by age 16 must change their plans when one is attacked by a werewolf.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

Someone or something has been terrorizing the small Canadian suburb where sisters Brigitte and Ginger (B+G) live. As our film opens, the neighbor is screaming that the creature has killed her dog…and basically no one cares.

B+G continue to go about their normal activities: staging their own deaths in dramatic photos, reminding each other of their pact to kill themselves before they reach 16, and rocking the ‘90s Goth look.

The sisters share their project with the class, and everyone is pretty into it except, of course, for the teacher (played by Ranger Gord from The Red Green Show [after all, this is a Canadian production]).

a teenage girl holds a bone-shaped ben in class, staring ahead with a frustrated and bored expression
I love that Brigitte has a bone pen. And excellent bored teen facial expressions.

As we get a glimpse of B+G’s high school existence, it becomes obvious Ginger is the hot sister who won’t put up with your bullshit (especially not from the douchey jock who keeps hitting on her), while Brigitte is the quiet nerd who tries to be as inconspicuous as possible. Trina, the cheerleader who takes pleasure in torturing Brigitte, pushes her into the corpse of another dead dog that’s lying in the field. Brigitte pukes, and Ginger starts attacking Trina, threatening to kill her. As part of a really creepy revenge plot, B+G decide to kill Trina’s dog.

That evening, Ginger makes the mistake of complaining about her aching back during dinner. Her mom enthusiastically tells her she’s getting her period, which dismays both B+G. When they sneak away that night to carry out their revenge plot, they encounter…A WEREWOLF (please at least pretend to be surprised). The wolf attacks Ginger and drags her away. (Women, fucked over by their periods yet again.) Brigitte runs after Ginger and helps her escape, but Ginger has already been mauled pretty severely. The werewolf runs after them, but is hit by a van. Coincidentally, the driver, Sam, is the guy who hooks all the high school kids up with drugs and has a thing for Brigitte (I have no idea how old he’s supposed to be b/c he looks MAYBE a year or two older, but Ginger later calls him out for being a creep).

When B+G make it home, Ginger’s wounds are already healing, so she manages to convince Brigitte not to call 911. Ginger now has to suffer through the agony of her first period while simultaneously transforming into a werewolf. When B+G try to explain her symptoms to the school nurse, she just says it’s a normal period and gives them condoms (remember—this is Canada).

The creepy jock guy tells Ginger getting high will take the edge off, so she lights up with him and some other dudes in Sam’s van. This leads to a major falling out between the formerly inseparable sisters (sounding a little familiar, eh, Disney? Ginger suddenly sprouts white streaks in her hair as well. WHAT).

The rift between B+G means Ginger gives into her sudden uncontrollable sexual appetite and hooks up with that jock asshole, while Brigitte reads up on lycanthropy (seriously, I think performing dramatic secret research is a requirement for all werewolf movies). Sam continues to be really into Brigitte, but when your sister is turning into a werewolf, you don’t have time for that shit.

two teenage girls face each other with tense stares
“No, I don’t want to build a fucking snowman.”

Ginger finally turns to Brigitte for help when she starts growing a tail and tries to eat the creepy jock. Brigitte tells her to say the same thing about him if he starts spreading rumors about her, but Ginger tells her it doesn’t work like that (TRUTH). It’s really hard not to take Ginger’s side in all of this; she’s such a fucking badass. In an effort to control her transformation, Brigitte pierces Ginger’s bellybutton with a silver ring in a scene that is the most disgusting in the entire movie (if you’re me, anyway).

Sam shows up at the high school because he’s trying to help Brigitte (who told him she was the one who was attacked), but she blows him off when Ginger gets jealous (God help the mister who comes between me and my sister).

That night, Trina comes to B+G’s house and demands they give her dog back. Ginger attacks her, and Trina dies when she hits her head on a kitchen counter. They hide the body in the freezer.

Ginger realizes that her sexual urges are actually urges to kill (a problem we can all relate to), and she only feels better when she’s ripping someone’s face apart. Brigitte tells her there’s an herbal remedy they can try and locks Ginger in the bathroom while she enlists Sam’s help.

I don’t know if the drug-making scene is supposed to be sexy or what, but it kind of is. Just so we’re clear, kiddies, I don’t condone drug use except when it can cure lycanthropy.

a teen girl looks on as a teen boy melts a substance over a candle
I think it’s the ’90s hair and mood lighting that does it for me.

Meanwhile, Ginger escapes and flashes some dudes at school; Ranger Gord sees this and instructs her to come to his office. She kills him and then kills the janitor.

It becomes apparent that Ginger passed on the werewolf disease to the jock, whose, ahem, red pen exploded in his pants (yeah, he’s totally peeing blood).  Brigitte goes to school to find Ginger and encounters the infected jock guy, who attacks her. She injects him with the antidote, and he is cured. Problem solved, yay! Except now she’s out of the antidote, boo.

When Brigitte finds Ginger, they have (another) major falling out. Ginger decides to seduce/kill Sam (most likely both). She breaks his arm, but Brigitte shows up to stop her. To prove that Ginger is still her top priority, Brigitte cuts their hands and they make a blood pact. As they leave, Sam hits Ginger with a shovel because he didn’t realize Brigitte was luring Ginger back to the house for more of the antidote (men, ruining everything since always).

Brigitte and Sam manage to get Ginger into the back of the van, but when they arrive at the house, she is awake and even more werewolf-y than ever. She escapes into the house, while Brigitte and Sam make more of the antidote. It basically looks like they’re cooking up meth, I think. I still haven’t watched any of Breaking Bad, so I don’t really know. Best guess.

Sam tells Brigitte he’ll give the antidote to Ginger, but she attacks him immediately and drags him to the basement. As she follows Ginger, Brigitte drops the syringe down the basement stairs. Fuck.

a werewolf with shiny, plastic-y skin snarls
For whatever reason, Ginger in full werewolf form kind of reminds me of ET?

Ginger, having completed her transformation is there, standing over dying Sam. She starts eating his flesh, and Brigitte tries to join in as a show of solidarity. However, Brigitte can’t handle how disgusting all of this is and throws up. In response, Ginger kills Sam. Brigitte tells Ginger she won’t die with her, and Ginger attacks. Brigitte stabs her, then hugs werewolf Ginger’s body as she dies.


The Critique:

God, I love werewolf movies. I will NEVER stop watching/reviewing them. I also have a soft spot for teen movies, esp. those dripping with sarcasm and laden with dramatic eye-rolls. I just can’t get over how perfect the werewolf/menstruation metaphor is.

I believe I watched this movie in high school and liked it but was traumatized that both Ginger and Sam died (still am). At least Ginger is back in the sequels, which I really need to watch. Honestly, this film doesn’t need to be almost two hours long, but it’s so darkly funny that I forgive it.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 4/5 Pink Panther Heads

I love this movie, but I’m really reluctant to give anything a 5.

This blog collab has been so much fun already.

I look forward to our next virtual date!