Film Review: BB (2016)

Film Review: BB (2016)

Oct 27, 2016

IMDb: Bb (2016)
Director: C.J. Wallis
Stars: Jennifer Mae, Kristian Hanson, Victoria Fox

The behind-the-scenes life of a sex worker is a subject has been fodder for everything from improbable romantic comedies like PRETTY WOMAN, to dives into the darkest kinds of dramas, like Paul Schrader’s HARDCORE with George C. Scott.

An all-too easy target for lurid exploitation by independent filmmakers, the trick is making the material seem fresh, and not just like another excuse to show tits, ass and blood, since pointing out that this sub-genre’s been done to death, would be putting in mildly.

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Canadian filmmaker C.J. Wallis decided to brave taking on the task yet again, by focusing on this subject for his very first feature length movie, “BB”. The very first thing that sets it apart from just another movie about girls giving up “money for honey” is that he focuses on online cam girls – one in particular.  As writer/editor/co-producer and director, it would seem he had his work cut out for him, juggling all the different hats at once. But the good news is that he insured that there’s enough realism incorporated into the story and the performances; you feel less like you’re watching a movie, than you are some kind of fucked-up documentary, that features the video journals of two different people who happen to collide under the most unsavory of circumstances.

Punk chick Leah Lamont (JENNIFER MAE) is head over heels in love with her girlfriend, Alina Lupei (VICTORIA FOX). So much so, that when Alina tells her how much she needs to return to see her family in Romania, Leah signs up as a cam girl and works online as pink-haired kewpie doll “Candy Cummings”, to raise money for a first-class plane ticket for Alina, and also to send her money to help her and her family out once she gets there.

Meanwhile, out in the shadow world of the ‘clients’ that Leah does shows for as “Candy”, she’s snagged one very ardent fan in Hal Bowan (KRISTIAN HANSON), an eyepatched war vet who goes by the online handle “HornyHal”. From his pitiful, dark and extremely disturbing video log entries, we discover right off the bat that he’s one of THOSE guys.  Where Leah/’Candy” perceives their interactions as harmless flirtations and foreplay in exchange for ‘tips’, Hal sees it as a whole lot more.  As in the FATAL ATTRACTION sense of ‘more.’

As things between Leah and Alina begin to fall apart, and the tone of Hal’s attentions become ever more menacing – so much so, that he beats up a fan that Leah dares to go on a date with – the sense of dread grows heavier with every moment, as the audience finds itself trying to guess if Leah’s going to end up in the police station morgue, or in a detective’s office telling them about this stalker she’s had to take care of herself.

Wallis can be commended here for what it seemed he was reaching for – bringing the dark, blighted urban sensibilities of TAXI DRIVER and Ken Russell’s WHORE into the 21st Century, reinterpreting what sexual commerce and interaction means NOW, in our ‘new’ world of texting, streaming and camming.

The loneliness, isolation, neediness and psychological distress that exists on both sides of the lens are captured very vividly here, where everyone pretends that they’re a better version of their actual selves, and nobody really gets what they want, or learns anything from their mistakes even as they perceive themselves struggling against making them.

One could say that the performances suffered from not having ‘name’ actors, but I appreciate Wallis casting more for naturalism, than for recognition or “actor-y” moments. Jennifer Mae captures all of Leah/’Candy’s’ soft curves and sharp edges perfectly, and Hansen is effectively creepy, pathetic and menacing as ‘Hal’, who becomes more despicable and unsympathetic as you discover more about him.

Victoria Fox doesn’t get a lot to do here as Alina, but her scenes with Mae are beautifully handled, and you can identify with Leah’s pain when things begin to go south.

DP John Sovie II has done a great job of balancing the tone of the cinematography, giving Leah’s private moments alone and when trying to contact Alina, a softer, more subdued tone in contrast to her personality, as opposed to the harsher, more “Times Square in the Seventies” kind of pallet, when she becomes “Candy Cummings”. Not being a big fan of rap, I have to say I really liked the soundtrack, as well as the sound design (Wallis again), where the music, crosstalk and other elements are almost another “actor” in the movie, providing so much more depth for the shifting moods of the film.

With its whipcord-thin 72 minute running time, “BB” doesn’t fuck around telling you the stories of Leah, Alina and Hal – how they hardly seem related, then intertwine, then resolve in one way or another…and then, kind of like a short, but sweet sex session, you get off and then forget about it.

Only in this case, you won’t forget Jennifer Mae anytime soon. She’s a new breed of actress we’re seeing coming up – very reminiscent of Maika Monroe (THE GUEST, IT FOLLOWS) or Alex Essoe (STARRY EYES), who themselves have peers in Scarlet Johanssen, Chloe Sevigny and Mia Wasikowska.

BB” won’t unseat the aforementioned TAXI DRIVER any time soon, (no other film has managed it yet), but it’s a great calling card for both Wallis and Mae. Two and a half out of five stars.

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