THE BABYSITTERS (David Ross). 90 minutes. Opens Friday (May 9). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NN
The Babysitters starts out as a smart, subtle and seriously disturbing look at a teenage girl who finds a way to turn middle-aged male desire into a money machine.
Our enterprising narrator is Shirley (Katherine Waterston), who discovers a whole new way to pad her college fund when the father of the kids she’s babysitting (John Leguizamo) pays her $200 to assuage his guilt after an impromptu groping.
In no time, Shirley is running a small-scale prostitution ring, offering fathers in her tony suburb a chance to hire her friends for child care with a happy ending. Things click along nicely until someone gets greedy, at which point the movie suddenly deflates into a conventional morality play.
That’s too bad, because until he loses control of the story, writer-director David Ross makes some interesting observations about contemporary teens’ attitude toward sex as a purely physical act totally removed from emotional connection, and gets fine performances from his principals.
Waterston, particularly, is a real find. The daughter of TV star Sam, she looks like a taller version of ER’s Maura Tierney, and Ross smartly uses her willowy grace to underscore her character’s obsessive-compulsive side. Shirley moves through her school’s hallways as deliberately as she arranges the items on her desk.
It’s a well-crafted detail, but – like pretty much everything else in the film – Ross never really finds a way to make it pay off.