Some traditional cultures shun photography, fearing that the camera can capture the soul. Maybe these cultures are onto something, because that’s exactly what happens in Isa Mazzei and Daniel Goldhaber’s Cam (2018).
Madeline Brewer shines as Alice Ackerman, ordinary daughter and big sister by day, costumed sex champion Lola by night. She earns enough of a living to pay down on a house by live streaming soft-core for Internet-land, direct from her toy-filled, pink-upholstered playroom to entitled male gazes like Tinker’s (Patch Darragh) and Barney’s (Michael Dempsey). But there are certain lines that she won’t cross—telling her fans that she loves them, for one—so she fights and claws for every view and keeps voluminous records of which formats are working. Date night? A theme week for the seven deadly sins? Faking your suicide with a knife? A gun?
Whether because of her rising popularity or the sheer expenditure of creative energy or the intensity of her ambition or the faked suicide (which I suspect is responsible), Lola somehow gets loose of Alice as a disembodied digital doppelgänger, locks her out of her own account, continues to webcast from a simulacrum of her set, and breaks every one of the rules to constrain her like something you conjured and then released from your spell. At first, the old Lola just wants her account back. By the end of the movie, she’s out for revenge.
The movie’s nuanced portrayal of life as Alice is as welcome as its excellent genie-out-of-the-bottle story.