Ah, that forbidden fruit: the babysitter. Mythologized in modern life as the de facto jailbait home-wrecker, she is second only to the nanny in holding the kind of temptation among middle-aged fathers that is prime for salacious cinematic drama. Writer-director David Ross’s gimmick—a high-school call-girl service that uses babysitting as its cover—has wicked potential. But like a wet dream, his delicious premise leaves you more frustrated than fulfilled.
Michael (Leguizamo), a restless and uncommunicative husband, finds that one tender moment with shyly longing babysitter Shirley (Waterston) turns into a loose series of sexual trysts, all of which end with him sheepishly handing her payment for services rendered. When word gets out, people on both sides—brassy students and beaten-down dads alike—want in on the action. And the transformed dynamic (especially mousy Shirley becoming bossy madam, literally pimping out her classmates) is simultaneously thrilling and horrifying to watch.
But just as the film veers into Larry Clark territory, Ross pulls in the reins and makes obvious choices, deflating an otherwise promising narrative into fairly flaccid melodrama. Still, those lurid notions of how quickly normal people can degenerate into emotionally scarring territory are hard to shake. The Babysitters’ disquieting provocations linger—like the scent of teen spirit.