Written and directed by Morgan Krantz “Babysitter” follows the story of two lost teens and their growing pains. Ray Longway (Max Burkholder) and Anjelika Dey (Danièle Watts) cross paths because of Ray’s mother Hailey Longway (Valerie Azlynn). Hailey is getting a divorce from her Hollywood director husband and he is fighting dirty. Needing help with her kids, Ray and Stella (Gracie Ray Loveland), Hailey is talked into hiring Anjelika whose pop star mother died some years perviously.
The film is full of unpleasant characters that are difficult to connect with. Out of the entire cast only Anjelika is close to endearing. Having lost her “crack-head” pop star mother the 18 year-old turns to Wicca and casting spells. Not long after taking over as Hailey’s babysitter and maid, the teen puts a talisman into Ray’s closet.
Hailey is self centered and just as guilty of playing around as her soon-to-be ex but she was not caught. Stella is spoiled rotten and Ray has issues on top of the teenage boy problems of hormones, attitude and testosterone. The first day Anjelika arrives, Ray goes through her backpack and takes a gold lighter.
He also pushes Anjelika to buy pot for him which he then sells at school. Later in the film, after Anjelika becomes part of the family, Hailey’s family arrive and she not only turfs the babysitter out of the house but asks her to wear a housekeeper outfit.
Ray falls first in lust and then in love with the babysitter but the two have a major falling out later in the film.
Lesley Ann Warren has a “blink and you’ll miss her” cameo as Hailey’s mother and in terms of casting, it is spot on. Both women look enough alike to really be mother and daughter.
It is hard to have any sort of empathy for any of the characters, apart from Anjelika. Hailey is at turns unpleasant and over-powering and her parents may not be racist per se, but they definitely think they are better than “the help.”
Part of the problem may well be that the Longways are an upper middle class family whose divorce will cost more than some third world countries have for their national budget. Ray himself has a sense of entitlement that is annoying, but then too does his mother and younger sister.
Krantz choosing to follow the issues of people connected to the film industry takes away from the empathy we are meant to feel for these, mostly, unpleasant people. Ray tells the audience at the start of the film about seeing his mother eaten by a werewolf in a film she worked on Initially it frightened him. Later, Ray says, he watched it for fun.
The film is, rather surprisingly, labeled a comedy on IMDb. Having watched the film twice it is easy to say that there is nothing remotely amusing about the plot or any of the characters. So of all the things “Babysitter” could be, funny is not one of them.
It is interesting and, despite the puzzling relationship between Ray and Anjelika, a compelling film to watch. Regardless of the fact that Ray seems to vacillate between being snotty, annoyed and annoying, in equal measure, we do still feel the need to see where his relationship with Dey is headed.
Burkholder does a more than capable job of portraying his “rich kid” with angst and Watts completely owns her character. Sadly there was not enough Lesley Ann Warren. That said, what there of the award winning actress, captivates.
There are parts that could be construed as funny but these moments never really gel and the overall unpleasantness of the film’s characters sucks any tiny bits of humor right out of the film. “Babysitter” may not be a comedy but it is s a solid 3.5 stars of of five as a quirky drama.
“Babysitter” premieres May 3 via Digital HD and On Demand. Worth a gander if only to see the growing pains of the almost rich and vacuous.