Review: Miss Freelance

Written and directed by Matthew Kyle Levine, following a week in the life of a young woman who freelances for strange men throughout New York City. Starring: Maddy Murphy, Timothy J. Cox, Zach Abraham, Keith Boratko and Ivan Greene.

Depending on how your mind works, you could go to a number of options for the definition of what her freelance ‘services’ are but it’s, as they say, the oldest profession. It starts out quietly, following closely behind Carly as she goes about her day, almost stalking her which feels fitting for the tone that the film is going for but it quickly takes a sharp turn for the strange as we’re introduced to her first client. However, it gives an odd impression of who Carly is, which doesn’t gel with the rest of the film, it’s quite a confused sense of self that’s being portrayed and it’s not clear enough if that’s actually their intention. We don’t learn much about Carly, so it’s hard to really get a strong impression of her character, she remains very aloof and brooding for the whole film and despite brief moments of emotional vulnerability, it doesn’t set up a strong persona.

Part of the problem is that Murphy struggles with the role, especially in those moments where she has to open up emotionally, it’s not convincing and feels forced. She also lacks a presence, she doesn’t really hold any sense of mystique or enchantment, she’s lacking more of a personality which leaves the character feeling quite bland without more context. It’s a shame as though she’s the focus of the film, the supporting actors are much more natural despite the strange habits they’re asked to portray. Timothy J. Cox’s role is particularly interesting, being the boyfriend that she unceremoniously dumps in favour of her clients, it’s a peculiar moment but Cox does well against the coldness of Carly’s attitude and perhaps garners more sympathy than she does in the end.

There are aspects of the film that work better than others, particularly the film’s use of discomfort which at times feels very fitting but then at others that it misses the mark. It’s the same problem with the sex scenes, they’re not uncomfortable in an atmospheric or impactful way, they just feel awkwardly done, it may have been better to leave it to the imagination as they’re fairly stereotypical. It also goes back and forth on what the aim is, partially it feels like peering into her life as she’s in the midst of a breakdown but with a lack of sincere emotion and certain writing choices, it feels as though it’s just her job and she’s potentially become even more dependent on them, than they are on her. It’s unclear what it’s trying to say in the end, it’s not that dark, it also doesn’t send a message of empowerment which is more the theme these days of portraying sex workers, so it struggles to make more of an impact. There’s a very misguided Bill Cosby joke which gives a poor view of the writing, the film doesn’t have enough of a satirical or dark edge to make this work, instead it comes across as off-putting.

Carly is a very one-sided character, she has a few too many silent pauses and her cold and aloof attitude comes through less as thoughtful, than simply empty and unfortunately Murphy doesn’t have the presence to push it to a more soulful level. It feels like it’s simply saying, the sex industry can be a hard place to live within but that’s something that’s been done before, many times and it lacks a fresh perspective.

Verdict: ✯✯

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