Running Time 90 minutes
Written and directed by David Ross
Starring John Leguizamo, Cynthia Nixon, Katherine Waterston
The movies have never known how to mine the diversity of multitalented John Leguizamo, but he’s currently shining brightly in two roles as different as chipotle and cherry pie. In Brad Furman’s The Take, he plays a tough Latino armored-truck driver in gang-infested East L.A. who survives a close-range gun blast that leaves him fractured for life. In first-time director David Ross’s The Babysitters, he plays a preppy suburban Dad in cashmere sweaters and Bass Weejuns, so lonely and neglected by his boring soccer mom wife (Cynthia Nixon) that he succumbs to the seductive charms of their babysitter, an honors student named Shirley (Katherine Waterston), who responds to her nice employer’s generosity with a generous “perk” of her own. She’s so proud of her new sexual power that it inspires her to enlist her high-school girlfriends. Pretty soon she’s talked a network of sexy classmates into a profitable business that can send them all to college. Printing business cards, doing bookkeeping on their laptops, juggling appointments with all the upstanding husbands and fathers in the neighborhood, the girls are soon up to their ponytails in clients. But a good thing can only last so long. Things begin to backfire and profits plunge when one girl’s greedy sister gets in on the act and goes into business for herself. They call it earning tuition money. The law calls it statutory rape.
It’s only a matter of time before the police find out—or, even worse, every wife on the block. Until the risks turn deadly, what first appears to be a lurid romance between a responsible family man and a neighbor’s 16-year-old daughter ends up being a deliciously dark comedy about a prostitution ring of neighborhood babysitters who introduce a whole new meaning to the term “parental nightmare.” Mr. Leguizamo is too good for dirty-old-man jokes; he turns his character’s yearning for the old freewheeling bachelor days before he was tied down by family responsibilities into a justification for lust that leaves the viewer with a queasy moral discomfort. You can’t approve of his secret sex life with underage vixens in bobby socks, but you understand him—and like him anyway. It’s refreshing to see him play Everyman, with no ethnic chains at all.
The Babysitters is about more than a respectable man’s double life. When his married buddies get wind of what’s happening in all those lighted bedroom windows, they want to cut themselves in on some babysitter action, too, and with her little black book, Shirley becomes a pint-size Polly Adler. The film shows the easy sexual mores that can result from too much capitalism; the rigid Darwinian social structure of suburban high schools that ignores the students’ hormonal progress; and the tortured guilt suffered by grown-ups when it’s time to pay the piper. Pitched somewhere between dark comedy and melodrama, The Babysitters breaks rules. Like television’s Six Feet Under and the recent film Juno, it’s the perfect antidote to the dopey, butter-cream-frosted teen flicks of John Hughes—Pretty in Pink with poison sauce.