Babysitter’s Black Book (Review)
Babysitter’s Black Book
Written by Richard Kletter and Michele Samit
Directed by Lee Friedlander
Lifetime Channel’s Babysitter’s Black Book is the timeless tale young, innocent girls who go from the Babysitter’s Club to the Redlight Special Club, and then get a heaping helping of consequences and lessons learned. The girls deal with the new-found freedom and sense of thrills from getting lots of money, but having to look the wives in the eyes and hide everything from their parents and the school, while the drama bomb is about to go nuclear. The big question is which cast member will wind up either dead, or worse than dead. That answer is sort of left up to the viewer, as the fates aren’t as catastrophic as the typical Lifetime girls gone prostitute film (such as Sugar Daddies), but they still aren’t things your normal teenage girl wants to happen to them.
Ashley Gordon’s (Spencer Locke, Detention) school business project “Family Buddies” is basically a super version of the Babysitter’s Club repackaged as helper buddies/tutors for overworked parents. Her friends all earn money as employees, there is Janet Moss (Lauren York) the sporty girl, Gilli (Steffani Brass) the arty girl, and Rachel (Angeline Appel) the all-around star who the dad’s all seem to love. Hm… Yes, Rachel has taken it upon herself to expand Family Buddies’ business model, and soon ropes Janet into helping as well. Rachel and Janet are the more sexually experienced girls, while Gilli and Ashley are more reserved and have no intention of going along with their schemes (but don’t tell them to knock it off, either).
Ashley is the overachieving scholar about to become valedictorian (beating the rival girl, rich bitch Harper (Ashley Dulaney)), and worried about college admissions essays. That becomes small fries when the bombshell of her mom’s business failing and her parents raiding her college fund happens. Desperate for money (she doesn’t want to go to… GASP… COMMUNITY COLLEGE!), Ashley lets herself get seduced by the promises of dad Mark (Ryan McPartlin), who promises to help with books and tuition to his expensive alma matter, and all she has to do it let him go to pound town on her. After Mark tries to control her life and she drops him, Ashley is now in on Rachel and Janet’s sex for money business model. Gilli tries to go along with it, but ends up unable to do so and flees with her dignity.
Things soon fall apart when rival Harper notices her pedophile uncle recognizes Ashley, does complex calculus in her head to determine Ashley is therefore having sex for money, and goes to the papers. This becomes a big story, despite the only proof of it being Harper’s suspicion, and now everyone is busted and Ashley is thrown out of the expensive school she just got accepted into (and Harper was stuck on the waitlist for!) Consequences hit not only the girls, but the fathers who were banging them, as the town’s divorce attorneys will be having a very profitable year!
Babysitter’s Black Book has three separate arcs, first is the desperate Ashley getting seduced with the struggles of coming out of her shell an trying to have a life away from the controlling man putting up the money, then her quick tour of being an actual prostitute, and finally the fallout and rebuilding the ashes. Because Ashley had so many things happen, there wasn’t enough time to focus on any one section. Mark being controlling is barely addressed, her horrors of prostitution is glossed over, and the fallout ends with her reputation being her biggest casualty (Rachel gets prison time, while Janet must face being pregnant by one of the men and deciding whether to get an abortion or not!)
Spencer Locke does a great job of doing much of the legwork, being the compromised central character who walks the line of being desperate enough to do bad things, but not so desperate she’ll do real bad things. Her character Ashley desperately craves to have it all, but life keeps conspiring to dangle hope in front of her and then yank it away, despite all her marvelous successes.
The most depressingly realistic part of the film is the depiction of class status, the four babysitters are middle class, but Ashley’s parents can’t even survive the loss of one income without raiding her college money. It’s financial desperation that drives her to trade in her morals for the promise of a brighter future, drilled in her head so often that college is the only path of success. She seems horrified at community college, even though that’s very common in California (where the film takes place), and the realities of decades of student loan payments are a constant boogeyman. Her rival Harper is from the family that has it all, but her money can’t buy her the top spot in the class…until Ashley’s schemes give Harper the opening she needs. In the end, the rich girl gets all the glory and destroys her lower class enemies because she has the cushion of plentiful money to fall back on. Harper is the big winner, unless you realize her awful uncle probably did gross stuff to her as well, which means that only Gilli won. Gilli escapes by not being involved in the sex shenanigans, and makes it to art school. She also imposes prolife viewpoints on the pregnant Janet, with only Ashley espousing that it’s Janet’s choice to decide what to do with the baby (we never find out what the ultimate choice is, but it is hinted it is aborted.)
Babysitter’s Black Book is more explicit in the sex and nearly nude teenage girls than your typical Lifetime film. Director Lee Friedlander seems to revel in panning the camera over the young women as they undress or prance around in bikinis, as if to say “Check out these hot early twenties actresses portraying these underage teens!”, all while heading towards a movie climax that villainizes anyone who wanted to check out the hot underage teens. As Lifetime’s demographic is mostly women, it makes me wonder if they made this in mind to sell it to Lifetime, or just where they thought it would land.
Despite the film trying to titillate you just to make you feel guilty, overall it is a pretty neat Lifetime drama, with enough high school drama to entertain the teens and enough sexual drama to entertain the scandal seekers. The drawbacks are the lack of going nuts with the consequences and a secondary villain winning the day with no comeuppance of her own. It’s definitely worth checking out when you see it in the tv listings.
Rated 7/10 (Did Lifetime just blast this school’s wifi password to the world?, fun with signs, fun with more signs, filthy daddy, this means they are having sex, betrayed mommy, call girl logo)
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