The Babysitters (2007)
Director: David Ross
Starring Katherine Waterson and John Leguizamo
The Babysitters is a curious movie that is entertaining yet doesn’t quite achieve coherence. It could be a dark satire about modern suburbia, an amoral, hedonistic comedy about teenage prostitution or a cautionary, moralistic tale about teenage prostitution. Instead of settling on one of these modes, Babysitters hedges its bets and veers awkwardly among them.
The movie starts with high school student Shirley (Katherine Waterson) babysitting for a family and becoming romantically involved with the father, Michael (John Leguizamo). Shirley appears to be a shy, demure teenager who develops a crush on an older man, while Michael is an unhappily married businessman.
After Michael kisses Shirley after driving her home, he gives her money, presumably out of guilt. From this, Shirley develops the idea to start a prostitution ring at her high school and proceeds to recruit her friends. Michael, meanwhile, tells his friends about the new kind of “babysitting” service and things move quickly from here.
Both Shirley and Michael are played a bit too sympathetically for the movie to really work as a dark satire. Shirley doesn’t seem like someone who would suddenly turn into a streetwise madam overnight, while Michael seems too guilt-ridden to be telling all of his neighbors and business associates about his new vice.
The Babysitters cannot help but be an essentially amoral film that seduces the audience with the taboo subject of sex between middle-aged men and high school girls. The moralistic tone it takes at times, and especially at the conclusion, seems disingenuous in a movie that mostly treats its subject with such flippancy.
The performances, especially by Leguizamo and Waterson are good, but their characters really don’t gel with the script. The lesson here is that if you are going to make a movie about a controversial subject, you may as well take it to an extreme rather than do it halfway and try to please everyone. The problem with The Babysitters is that it will not really please anyone; it will offend those who find the subject matter intrinsically distasteful, and it will disappoint anyone looking for cutting edge satire or hedonistic fun.