Published May 08, 2008The Babysitters is a pretty dark, oddly amoral take on suburban life. The story starts with overachieving Shirley, a 16-year-old with a crush on Michael (John Leguizamo), the dad she sits for. Michael is restless in his home life, alienated by his formerly fun-loving wife (Cynthia Nixon), who has turned into a high-strung, overprotective mom.
When Shirley and Michael start an affair, his guilt leads to a massive payout for her "babysitting services. Soon, other married men catch wind of the deal and Shirley starts involving her friends in the babysitting action, taking the standard 20-percent cut of the profits for her college fund. When her business is threatened by a high school rival, Shirley uses any means necessary to regain her powerful status. Meanwhile, her surprisingly tender relationship with Michael is strained by their practical business arrangement.
The film starts off as a strangely rosy portrait of teenage prostitution, all self-esteem building and problem-free for the girls, who are flattered by the attention of the horny but harmless older men. The film gets darker and sadder as it goes along, as Shirley starts to unravel and the business spirals out of control, but it refuses to take on a moralistic tone or judge its characters.
Katherine Waterston is excellent and unsettling as Shirley, capturing the characters journey from awkward schoolgirl neat freak to cold, calculating businesswoman revelling in her newfound power to her inevitable fall from grace. John Leguizamo almost impossibly manages to be likeable and sympathetic in his role as the straying husband who develops real feelings for Shirley, which is a testament to his acting skills.
The film is a little reminiscent of Heathers in its dark satire of high school life, replacing that films exploration of violence with The Babysitters attitude towards sex. (Peace Arch)