They went there—He went there.
Babysitters (2007) is a drama written and directed by David Ross, starring Lauren Birkell (Cast Away), Katherine Waterston (Good Dick (2008)), John Leguizamo (Vanishing on 7th Street, Romeo + Juliet (1996)), Cynthia Nixon (Sex in the City HBO Series), Louisa Krause (Toe to Toe, Taking Woodstock), and Halley Wegryn Gross (Gossip Girl TV series, Across the Universe) in a film about a teenager who turns her babysitting service into a call-girl service for married men.
And yes, you read the intro correctly. I was a bit worried at first about watching this film since the movie’s synopsis was not particularly what, well, drew my interest. Instead, I focused on what John Leguizamo’s role in this film would be, since I am only familiar with him being the voice of Sid the Sloth in Ice Age. He is, of course, known for starring in other featured films, most notably, his role as Val Valenzuela in The Lincoln Lawyer and the more recent film Vanishing on 7th Street. However, it was watching his performance in this movie, which I took Leguizamo as a more serious performer.
The Babysitters film covers much personally concerning themes: high school crushes, how marriage changes people, family rivalry— teen prostitution, and what is, of course, a film that veers into the realm of “organized” pedophilia. However, I will leave this word only for this paragraph.
“I’m a junior at Alfred E. Groves, high school. This is my babysitting service. The answer is no: mom does not drink, dad didn’t hit me, and Uncle Steve never showed me his privates. I don’t even have an Uncle Steve. The money is nice, and paid fellatio isn’t that much more humiliating than flipping burgers. But that’s not why I do it.” –Shirley Lyner.
Shirley (Waterston) has a lot on her mind. Her friends, getting good grades, getting into the best college, a crush, one of her friend’s brother, and a babysitting job. That’s enough to keep her busy—being just an average, insecure teenage girl—and now, she is worried about how she will pay for college. She gets an opportunity to babysit for of her neighbors—the Beltrans. One evening after working for the Beltrans, Mr. Beltran (Leguizamo) offered Shirley a ride home. On the way, Shirley’s stomach growled and the trip went from a direct route home to a diner where Shirley had a burger and fries and Mr. Beltran had a coffee. After several awkward “stares” and exchanges of smiles, Shirley asks Mr. Beltran how he and his wife met.
See, Mr. Beltran was experiencing problems in his marriage. His wife was no longer the woman he once knew. Their lives were consumed with raising their kids, along with the pressures of a demanding job. Shirley reminded him of the young man he once was, and she made him feel young again. Therefore, he began to tell Shirley of the story about how he and his wife met. He also, complemented on how mature and smart Shirley was, as they exchange glances–back and forth. Later in the film, he decides to take Shirley to see the trains parked at the depot–a place his wife refused to go to.
They went there, and then he went there.
In between all the awkward silences and that sudden betrayal of innocence, Shirley’s life changed for as long as she will remember it. Mr. Beltran, well, from now on, let’s just call him by his first name, Michael, was “overwhelmed” with guilt for having kissed Shirley—an underage high school girl—overpays her for babysitting for the night. Eventually, their relationship progresses—where their mental interest, becomes more “physical.” Michael began to see, in Shirley, what he used to see in his wife Gail (Nixon). Shirley gives him the attention he wants, and she was youthfully elated when he told her of his interest in trains—she attended to his every boyish interest. He felt young again. She restored his youth– moreover, she—began charging him $200, for her time.
What is it about money that sparks the entrepreneur in people? Since Shirley needed the money to pay for college, having sex with Michael wasn’t out of love it was a business. Soon, she begins taking on more clients for “babysitting” that she becomes overwhelmed and had to hire her best friend Melissa (Birkell) to take up the slack. But, Melissa had to pay a “finder fee” for the “referral.” Soon, word of the babysitting service got around, and she had to recruit more girls. Since she had to go through all the trouble of finding and scheduling clients for her underaged friends— she now received consistent profits. In other words, she became a Madame.
This is where I will have to stop. There is only so much detail I’ll get into in this post. However, I will tell you this; even though the film’s concept is jarring—the story and film overall is well done. Leguizamo and Waterston’s roles in the movie carried the entire premise—the story was uncomfortably believable. Even though it directly details the exploitation of young girls by older men–could not help me to rationalize the film’s subject matter.
The Babysitters succeeded in casting a shadow of reality on the vulnerabilities of the youth, as “sex” for them was overrated. The boys in their school were just as interested in these girls, but these girls chose not to “experiment” with the boys their age, out of fear of ruining their reputations. They could instead, exercise their “urges” with these older men, without the news getting back to the school, more so, the overall ignorance of the wives in this film–never questioning their husbands sudden erratic behaviors, and how, all of a sudden, this multitude of young girls knocking down their doors just to “babysit” their children.
These girls eventually suffer from their lack of maturity in understanding what was happening to them. Only when the reality of what was going on begins to affect their relationships with each other—their guilt coupled with the men in this film’s enduring unhappy marriages–blurred the lines, and forced an accepted rationalization that allowed for these men to drool over underage girls and take advantage of them.
Dir. Ross demoralizes these girls, turning them into calculating, scheming Lolitas. It is as if the director wants you to feel sorry for these men—and understand the reasons for their depravity towards these girls. It is also nauseating that these men never once questioned their immorality at all in the film–they only worried what will happen to them when their wives found out. The Babysitters left me uneasy for having watched the movie–because the men went unpunished. Instead, it was these poor girls, who end up taking all the blame.
If it were not for the notable acting performances by Waterston and Leguizamo, the film would have been a complete annoyance and a waste of time.
This movie is rated ‘R’ for obvious reasons. Sex. Drugs. Alcohol consumption by underage individuals.