February 9th, 2021
MOVIE: PVT CHAT
STARRING: PETER VACK, JULIA FOX, KEITH POULSON, BUDDY DURESS
DIRECTED BY: BEN HOZIE
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
The world we’re living in has certainly changed the way that sex and intamacy are portrayed on screen. It’s not always a romantic thing. It’s a different kind of eroticism. It’s a completely different kind of connection. Movies such as Hustlers, the fascinating horror film Cam, or Steve McQueen’s Shame have opened our eyes to a world of sex, money, power, loss of self control, and obbsession all intertwining. Ben Hozie’s PVT Chat might be the perfect combination of those films, where the two sides of voyeur and voyee intersect. A man named Jack (Peter Vack) lives his life recklessly through his computer. He makes money playing online blackjack and spends the majority of his day interacting with web-cam girls. He lives in a two-bedroom apartment in New York city, he lives alone because his roommate killed himself, and he’s developing an unhealthy obsession with cam-girl named Scarlett (Julia Fox of Uncut Gems fame). PVT Chat captures Jack’s unhealthy lifestyle in all of its glory. And when Jack finds out Scarlett might be living in his neighborhood, the prospects of making his fantasies a tangible reality makes life even more complicated. PVT Chat is a wild experience and a fantastic independent film. It’s filled with all the intrigue of a degenerate man’s obsessions, giving him all of the highs, and plenty of lows.
A large majority of where my respect for PVT Chat arises is the entire look of this film. It’s not surprising that Fox said yes to this project, because director Ben Hozie has a guerrilla style of filmmaking that looks inspired by the Safdie brothers. Every moment captured in Jack’s life is a mixture of an episode of MTV’s Catfish, a documentary of a man living alone in a big city, or the perspective of what we see on his computer screen. Through this style, it creates a realistic, and sad reality of Jack’s life. He’s a man dealing with various issues, including loneliness, isolation, desperation, and obsession. All of his time and efforts go into the women he chats with, his masturbation habits, the poker he plays, and the alternate realities that live inside his head. A large chunk of PVT Chat is not about the plot of where these characters are going, but more about what their reality already consists of.
What has to be appreciated about PVT Chat is that director Hozie has cast the two perfect leads in Vack and Fox. Vack has the look of a cool guy until you talk to him. His portrayal of the character is spot on; As the kind of sucker that works in the stock market, not because he enjoys it, or is any good at it, but because he wants to sound cool, or impress women he talks to. As for Fox, well her beauty is no mystery, but her authenticity, fearlessness in the roles she takes, seems to be her natural talent. It reminds me of current actors, such as Zendaya in Malcolm & Marie or Rachel Brosnahan in I’m Your Woman, where the pressure to perform, to be successful, helps them rise to the occasion for what the script needs.
The screenplay was also written by Hozie and the narrative navigates the balance of the two sides of Jack and Scarlett. We see Jack go out to an art exhibit of friends, where he’s unable to be himself, relax, stop lying, or stop thinking for a minute about Scarlett. For the cam girl, for a while we only see her in the frame of the computer, until the second and third act where her personal life becomes a part of the narrative. Her boyfriend Duke (Keith Poulson) sees her success as his opportunity to help the theater he owns, while hoping for a chance to use Jack for his money, being the fool that he is. It is when Jack becomes aware that Scarlett lives in his neighborhood that his fantasies becoming a reality might not be what he wants to come true.
It’s this portrayal of these characters that had me respecting PVT Chat. It’s an exact modern take on where the heads and hearts of people in their mid-20’s and 30’s are at today. The internet and sex are becoming a useful source of income. The painful isolation that we have been stuck in our apartments all day. The need for a connection and how we still don’t get it when we are theoretically connected. PVT Chat has a finger on the pulse of sex, humanity, and the things that drive us. It’s above all, an excellent display of independent filmmaking, and one that will have audiences chatting about.
DARK STAR PICTURES WILL RELEASE PVT CHAT IN SELECT THEATERS ON FEBRUARY 5TH FOLLOWED BY A VOD AND DIGITAL HD RELEASE FEBRUARY 9TH, 2021
Written by: Leo Brady