It’s often difficult to understand Babysitter‘s aims, and viewers deserve more than something this over-caffeinated and underwritten.
Director Monia Chokri’s dark comedy Babysitter establishes a very specific tenor from its opening moments, as a trio of lecherous businessmen debate the shapely attributes of an Instagram model. Disorienting close-ups collide with an editing style so frenetic that Michael Bay himself might blush. The introduction of two random females invites uncomfortable shots of cleavage, asses, and crotches, while a UFC match that serves as the uniting force rages on, its participants pummeling one another with animalistic ferocity. Before long, bright red blood stains the white canvas, sex and violence converging to offer a meta-commentary on the ideals and affections of entertainment in modern society. Unfortunately, Babysitter isn’t nearly as pointed in the rest of its observations, an absurdist take on misogyny, female empowerment, and toxic masculinity that exhausts the viewer long before its end credits.
Chokri and writer Catherine Leger clearly have a lot to say here about 21st-century gender politics, but do so in a manner so haphazard that it soon becomes impossible to determine any precise messaging or point of view. Canadian engineer Cedric (Patrick Hivon) is one part of that aforementioned trio, who, in a drunken stupor, forcibly kisses a female reporter outside of the UFC venue live on television. His actions deemed as sexual assault, he is suspended from his job and forced to reconsider not only his behavior on that fateful night, but what lead him to attempt something so brazen in the first place. Cedric’s brother, Michel (Steve Laplante), convinces him to write a letter of apology to the reporter, which inspires Cedric to examine his misogynistic ways, the results of which he wants to publish as a novel. Meanwhile, Cedric’s wife, Nadine (director Chokri), is at her wit’s end when it comes to caring for their newborn daughter, inspiring Cedric to hire a comely nanny named Amy (Nadia Tereszkiewicz). It’s Amy who ultimately changes the lives of all three of these participants, forcing them out of their comfort zones to question their place in a post-#MeToo society.
Or something like that. It’s frequently difficult to make heads or tails of what Babysitter is actually trying to accomplish. Michel, who fancies himself both an intellectual and a feminist, is ultimately revealed to be an even bigger misogynist than his brother, because isn’t that ironic? Cedric is essentially removed from the central action, because apparently Chokri and Leger clearly had no idea what to do with the character after the inciting incident, while Nadine finally considers her own agency as a woman after initially thinking nothing of her husband’s actions or the resulting controversy. This involves her becoming a proxy Disney princess by wearing a giant purple cape and donning a strap-on to potentially peg her husband, because maybe then he will understand what it means to be objectified in today’s society. It’s all very broad and very stupid, and not nearly as clever or substantive as it intends to be, mostly the result of its lack of focus. Babysitter is the type of film that forces Amy into a sexy maid’s outfit and deems it empowering, while also acknowledging how inappropriate it is considering the situation, a development which is evidently supposed to make the viewer question their initial reaction. Anything who finds that level of agitation may find the whole ordeal worthwhile, but there’s simply too much empty pomp and spectacle masquerading as insightful social commentary to get on board with this broad attempt at satire. And that’s not even mentioning the inclusion of Peaches’ subversive anthem “Fuck the Pain Away,” a sort of key to the register the film is operating on. The film proceeds to end on a note of hope for the next generation of women, but they deserve more than something as over-caffeinated and underwritten as Babysitter.
You can currently stream Monia Chokri’s Babysitter on Mubi.
Originally published as part of Tribeca Film Festival 2022 — Dispatch 4.