film reporter


Attempting to be this generation's "Risky Business," "The Babysitters" is the sort of ribald morality tale that manages to feel sleazy and decorous at the same time. The tale of a high school girl starting her own prostitution ring relishes the amorality of its central characters even while purporting to be an incisive depiction of suburban sexual mores. Although artfully executed, the film written and directed by David Ross never manages to overcome its exploitative aspects.

The story centers on Shirley (Katherine Waterston, daughter of Sam), who works as a regular baby sitter for married upper-middle-class couple Michael (John Leguizamo) and Gail (Cynthia Nixon). His marriage having settled into a dull routine, Michael longs for a little excitement, and he finds it unexpectedly in the form of a torrid affair with Shirley.

When he guiltily rewards her with financial compensation after their fling, it inspires Shirley to recruit several of her comely classmates to service the many lonely suburban married men in the area. Needless to say, the resulting complications threaten to unravel the lives of everyone involved.

Although the film contains moments of mordant humor, it mainly takes a serious tone that the shallow nature of the material doesn't support. From its depictions of Michael's existential ennui to Shirley's growing Heidi Fleiss-style ruthlessness while building her business, "Babysitters" strains for a level of social comment that it never manages to achieve.

This is despite fine work by Leguizamo, who also co- produced, and Waterston, who strikingly bares herself both physically and emotionally for her role.

Technical elements are top-notch, with the handsome cinematography, first-rate editing and atmospheric musical score providing the proceedings with a glossy sheen. (partialdiff)