The Babysitter

Evil men and their lustful ways! This wouldn't happen if we could all come together and bake 9-grain bread!
★★
☆☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1995
Director: 
Guy Ferland
Starring: 
Alicia Silverstone, Jeremy London, Nicky Katt, J.T. Walsh, Lee Garlington, George Segal
The Setup: 
The evil lusts of men focus on a hot babysitter and result in violence, as per usual.
Discussion: 

Apparently this is a Lifetime Original Movie, which I didn't know at the time, but makes sense in retrospect, as it fits with their ethos [at least in the 90s] that any men that have not been physically, psychologically or chemically castrated are ALL potential rapists, looking at women with sick, sick sexual fantasies, when if they were better, more advanced human beings [why, a little more like women, perhaps] they would want to do wholesome, positive things like bake whole bran muffins, make collages of puppy pictures, and drink cinnamon peppermint herbal tea. And they would never, ever, EVER want to have sex—or at least sex that is, you know, any FUN.

I was drawn to this movie when reviewing the oeuvre of Guy Ferland, who directed Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, which I enjoyed much more than is medically advisable, albeit not due to Mr. Ferland's direction. And you know, the more I look back on this movie [I learned it was a Lifetime original only after watching it], it really DOES seem like a crappy made-for-cable "movie." But it is based on a short story from 1969, so it does at least have a genuine story with genuine characters, although the subject matter does seem like it might have had more social relevance 25 years before this movie was made.

We open with this crappy music that screams "Made-for-TV" as we see Alicia [her character is listed in the credits as "the babysitter," so let's just call her Alicia] walking to her babysitting assignment. She is wearing a sundress and combat boots. On the way, she is looked at and leered at by seemingly every man in town, including Jack, her boyfriend, who is kind of a cross between Michael J. Fox and Harry Potter, and Mark, this hot thug/greaser type. Having a greaser type kind of lets on that this is some musty material. Alicia arrives at the Tucker's, her babysitting assignment, to find that they aren't ready yet. She has a little trouble zipping up the dress of Dolly Tucker, the Mom, who has apparently gotten a little plumper, and whose attitude tells us that she thinks her husband is the biggest asshole she has ever had to deal with. Her husband, played by J.T. Walsh [one of those guys you would recognize if you saw him], is indeed an asshole, however, as will soon be revealed. He makes no secret to anyone who will listen that he sure thinks that babysitter is one sweet-lookin' little girl. Meanwhile, at some sort of diner, Alicia's boyfriend Jack is reading The Catcher in the Rye. The alluring Mark comes in and is super-cold to the waitress, then starts making talk with Jack. He is sort of mocking Jack because it's a Friday night and he's sitting in a diner with his crappy paperback while his hot girlfriend [we have already established that Mark would like to present Alicia with a pearl necklace] is out babysitting. It would also seem that Mark and Jack used to be best friends, and both on the football team, until something happened [that I never quite caught onto] that made them quite estranged from each other. After Mark comes onto the waitress, feeling her up and kissing her only to get a beer [does the evil of men know no bounds?], he follows Jack outside. He has made the insinuation that he got with Alicia once before Jack hooked up with her, and this gets Jack's goat. The thing is, Mark just keeps following Jack, saying he wants to be friends, he wants to hang out like they used to, but there is this whole air of menace and manipulation to him. After a while you start to realize that this is kind of a little Othello, with Mark expertly playing on Jack's internal fears and jealousy. It's actually fairly well written, although after awhile you start to admire Mark for being so smart although snaky, and start to hate Mark for being such an idiotic simpering wuss. It also starts to come off as more than a tiny bit homoerotic, just as Othello does, because you have these two men having these intense, erotically-charged conversations, with one of them trying to tempt the other, looking intently into the other's eyes, Mark making Jack smoke a doob, etc. During this whole time there's also this weird blue dusk light, which I thought was a stylistic choice, but it turns out that this movie plays out over just a few hours, just about half of real time, so I think they were trying to clue us in on that.

Anyway, also during all this we are having abrupt transitions into these fantasy sequences that represent what the men in the story want to do with Alicia. One of the first shows Harry Tucker fantasizing that he's driving a sensual and willing Alicia home as a way to get some mental space from his nag-nag-nag-nag-nag wife. They arrive at the party of the Holsten's, that's Mark's parents, by the way, and Mr. Holsten is played by George Segal. Dolly says she'll have a wine spritzer, which cracked me up, but after some snarky comments from Harry, who started drinking early, she decides that she'll have some hard liquor. She is soon unloading some hardcore bitching about her idiot husband to Mrs. Holsten, while Harry is off fantasizing that Alicia is having her boyfriend over, and decides that he must go right over and check on her. His wife lets him go, although he is clearly drunk as a skunk, but she reserves the car key. He falls asleep in the car and has more fantasies about Alicia.

Meanwhile Alicia is getting jumped on and felt all over by the kids, including the boy, little Jimmy. She is telling them to stop, but they don't, and the camera pans away as we hear her say "Jimmy, I'm serious, STOP," inviting us to imagine what horrors are happening, and making sure we know that ALL males, even little eight-year-olds, ARE RAPISTS. As this is happening, Mark has convinced Jack to call Alicia in a bid to come over, which she was not receptive to at all, and now has convinced him to go over anyway. She leaves the kids in the bath to answer the door [not a great idea, Alicia!] and manages to work "no means no" into her conversation where she tells Jack he's acting like a jerk and why doesn't he just take off. By the way, Mark has gotten Jack drunk [and gotten drunk himself]. The Tuckers are also pounding down the drinks at their party, making overingestion of alcohol one of the themes here.

SPOILERS > > > So as Mark and Jack go around the back of the house and peep in, Harry is having the fantasy that he goes home to find Alicia and Jack fucking on the couch. He kicks Jack out without his clothes, then sits down to cuddle with Alicia, slipping in a gentle threat that if she doesn't give in he'll send her off naked down the street, too. We also see that even the 8-year-old son is having sexual fantasies about Alicia, too! Although his only consist of him rubbing soap on her back while she's in the bath.

So Harry comes in and demands the keys and takes off, although he's clearly super drunk. So is Dolly, and she's beginning to be all weepy and bitter at her lost youth and looks, and makes a quite ill-advised pass at Mr. Holsten, who tries to be nice. Meanwhile Mark and Jack have come in the house, and Mark pulls this whole thing about how they're too drunk to leave, so Alicia needs to let them stay for 15 minutes. If I were Alicia, I'd be telling them they can sit it out on the porch, but she agrees. Around now the two youths are having fantasies that one of them is screwing her in front of the other, which, in one version, results in the homo-subtext meter going off into red as they have a nude fight scene over her. You will notice that all of the men's fantasies are growing gradually more violent—because hello, ALL men are rapists. So in a few fantasies here, Alicia ends up dead, which causes the two shirtless guys to fight/bond.

So suddenly Mark tells Alicia that Jack forced him to come over, because he was planning on attacking her, and Mark came along to protect her. They guys have a big fight, Mark bests Jack and then makes to rape Alicia, but something happens and he ends up running outside, where he is hit and killed by the drunken Harry, who somehow made it home from the party completely inebriated. Harry is taken in by the police for drunk driving, and the final shot is of the bewildered Jack, implying that the film has a measure of sympathy for him and how he had good intentions, but drink and the manipulations of Mark drove him to fuck up his whole Alicia situation this way. Do not drink and have manipulative friends named Mark.
< < < SPOILERS END

It wasn't awful, in fact it was quite enjoyable as a potboiler, with suburban families getting drunk and letting out their underlying marital hatred, and as a piece of "provocative" fiction from 1968, I can be down with it. However, as a Lifetime made-for-TV movie created in 1995, I can't really approve, mostly because of its "all men are creepy potential rapists who harbor creepy sexual fantasies when they should be worried about recycling" vibe, not only for how it exaggerates the threat men pose to women, but holds the fact that men have sexual thoughts AT ALL against them. It's the typical Lifetime ethos, which has always seemed to be just cheap man-hating or examination of the worst in women, and as such NO kind of friend to women.

But if I came across this as a short story set in 1968—where its scenario and politics seem a little more plausible—I might think it was not that bad, especially the Othello-lite temptation of Mark over Jack, leading to Jack screwing up his good thing for almost no reason. This whole aspect is not that poorly written, although you keep waiting for Jack to just GET AWAY from Mark, or tell Mark to GET AWAY from him. I also like [again, in 1968] the whole structure of all the guys having these sexual fantasies, and can even handle them becoming ever-more violent—especially as they seem to include and not shy away from a normal level of homoeroticism. It's just that by 1995, a lot of these ideas seemed pretty dusty and musty, and the movie doesn't do much to update them—or if it did [I haven't read the story] it sure doesn't seem like it. And Lifetime has its whole history and traditional point of view working against them. And in the end this is totally, totally a made-for-TV movie, with all that implies.

And come on, Alicia Silverstone is simply not all that.

Should you watch it: 

I wouldn't. If it's on for free and you have nothing better to do… well, still, you'd probably regret it.