“Babysitter” is a bit of a head scratcher with what it’s trying to say, but Chokri deserves plenty of credit for taking on misogyny and sexism in a lighter way.
Right off the bat you can tell Monia Chokri’s Babysitter will be full of high energy and a couple eye-roll conversations. Middle-aged sexist Cédric (Patrick Hivon) is out with some friends at a boxing match and deep in the throes of rating women. Yeah, it’s THAT kind of movie. The edits are fast, moving from one face to another, and when two women sit in front of them, the camera, meant to symbolize the men’s point of view, focuses on their breasts and behinds.
With how quickly it cuts from one frame to another, how fast these French Canadians talk and the nature of the conversation, those few minutes will raise your heartrate and maybe get your blood boiling.
The Quebec film, adapted from Catherine Leger’s stage play of the same name, takes on sexism and misogyny with comedy. Our antihero Cédric drunkenly kisses a female reporter during a prank on live TV and life begins to spiral. Though there are some good points brought up about how society treats women, it’s hard to focus on any of it when there’s so many other hyperactive things going on in the film.
Cédric doesn’t think there was anything wrong with his prank, which involved him going up to a broadcast reporter, kissing her on the cheek and yelling “I love you, Chantal.” Others think differently, and he’s suspended from work. Even his own brother, journalist Jean-Michel (Steve Laplante), who’s much more sensitive and says he better understands women, writes a piece against him in the newspaper.
Stuck at home with his overly exhausted girlfriend, Nadine (Chokri), and their incessantly crying baby, Cédric and his brother decide to write a book full of letters to different women apologizing for their misogyny. At the time same, he hires a mysterious babysitter named Amy (Nadia Tereszkiewicz) who forces the trio to face their sexual anxieties and the lives they live.
If all of that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. The fast-energy editing from the beginning continues throughout the film and makes every scene move 100 mph. It’s exciting to see something new like this in a movie, but it becomes a bit too much. But there are creative technical choices that should be applauded.
There’s impeccable attention to detail when it comes to production design (an animal-themed pediatrician’s office equipped with a lion-shaped exam table stands out, along with the couple’s dreamy, flowery backyard). The emphasis on sound also helps us understand how suffocated Nadine feels, like Cédric’s typing that keeps her up at night and the baby’s cries that always seem to follow her.
As far as the conversation on sexism, it’s pretty ridiculous at times, which seems to be the point. Men are usually the ones talking about the plight of women, even though they have no idea what it really means to be one. That pretty much leads to fairly meaningless conversations. The best moments in the film are when Nadine, usually walking into the room tired and so over it, points out everything wrong in Cédric and Jean-Michel’s logic.
When Cédric says his misogyny likely started when his mother drew dresses over his drawings of naked women, Nadine recognizes instantly how ridiculous that sounds and shuts down the theory. Approaching this topic with humor helped a lot, even if it didn’t feel like much was accomplished. What the movie does get right is that if the reporter situation were to happen in real life, the woman would likely receive thousands of hateful comments and possibly death threats.
The Amy storyline is all over the place. Describing herself as Brigitte Bardot dressed as a nanny, she’s more of a fantasy than an actual person – and that’s a problem with a few characters too. She’s always coming into rooms with high energy, and sometimes she takes on a demonic deep voice that doesn’t come with an explanation.
The character Amy has the best impact on is Nadine, who becomes a more sexualized and dominant version of herself by the end of the film. Jean-Michel falls head over heels for Amy, but we’ve been there and seen that before.
Babysitter is a bit of a head scratcher with what it’s trying to say, but Chokri deserves plenty of credit for taking on misogyny and sexism in a lighter way.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Middle-aged sexist Cédric (Patrick Hivon) gets suspended from work after drunkenly kissing a female reporter during a prank on live TV. Stuck at home with his long-suffering girlfriend, Nadine (director Monia Chokri), and their incessantly crying baby, Cédric teams up with his sensitive brother, Jean-Michel (Steve Laplante), to co-author a confessional book apologizing for their past misogyny. Enter Amy (Nadia Tereszkiewicz): a mysterious and provocative young babysitter, who, like a Mary Poppins of the libido, forces the trio to face their sexual anxieties while turning their lives upside down.