BB is the provocative story of a girl named Leah who, under the name "Candy Cummings", performs strip shows online from her apartment for thousands of strangers every day, never fully knowing the extent of evils that could be watching on the other side of the screen.
Leah Lamont (played by Jennifer Mae – who also co-produces here) – otherwise known as Candy Cummings – takes a job as a web-cam girl – doing strip-tease, masturbating for her on-line clients and playing out the many varied fantasies for those on the other side of the camera. Her initial reason for taking the job is to make some quick cash so that her girlfriend Alina (Victoria Fox) could return home to Bucharest and reconnect with her family. Alina falls into the same old traps she once escaped (mostly drug use) and refuses to return Leah’s calls. Adding to Leah’s frustration over her deteriorating relationship, one of her on-line customers and apparent war veteran “Horny Hal” (Kristian Hanson – also co-producing) begins cyber-stalking her – illegally tapping into her web-cams and following her every move. He loses out on a date that “Candy” has offered, and he violently reacts by beating up the actual lottery winner of the night out. Eventually, he kidnaps Leah.
It all started out pretty promising. The opening sequence of Leah auditioning/applying for the web-gig with The Madame Candace Camera (a brief but wonderful supporting performance from Elissa Wagner), where Leah strips down and answers questions about masturbation, her girlfriend and her many, many tattoos — initially hooks you. And I’ll lay it out there; this film has no problem showing beaver shots, exposed breasts and bare butts at the drop of a hat.
There’s a reasonably effective build of tension as the film goes on, but the last 20 minutes – a climax is arguably where the audience should be most on edge – were a total drag and absolutely the moment where the film lost me totally. However, it never completely had me, but I was definitely intrigued and excited to see where it would go. Sadly, the payoff is cookie-cutter and the performances suddenly go from decent to just plain bad.
Jennifer Mae does a pretty good job bringing Leah to life, but it’s her moments in the guise of Candy where she seems more comfortable. I’m not sure what that says, but I’m just reporting my opinions here. It was quite a triumph in the bravery category for Ms. Mae, as she’s nude for much of the film’s running time – in love scenes, while bathing and while doing her work in front of the web-cam. I can’t imagine that was easy, but there’s never any self-consciousness surrounding her performance here. She’s able to pull off several emotional moments with gusto – most notably when she’s pining over her beloved (and halfway across the world) Alina. It’s those last 20 minutes of face-to-face time with “Horny Hal” which left me feeling disappointed. She doesn’t sell the terror or anger in these scenes, and I don’t think the film’s sudden drop of the ball as a whole, did her any favors.
As for “Horny Hal”, Kristian Hanson does an okay job of being the creeper. He talks directly to the camera, in what is meant to be documents/journals which Leah will eventually see. He professes his love and tells her/the audience his story (which is apparently all a farce) and there are some genuinely creepy moments – like when he shows off the engagement ring he’s purchased for Leah – but can now not deliver to her, since he didn’t win the big date. Hanson never completely sold me on Hal’s “crazy”, and once he has direct scenes with Leah – like Mae – the performance falters even more. He’s not scary, he’s not even remotely creepy in the climax. It’s all just so blah. But Hanson was never perfect to begin with, so it’s not a surprise that when things actually have to ramp up emotionally and mentally – that he can’t deliver. His outburst at the dining table while sharing a meal with a tethered Leah – nope.
The film proudly touts its wares as a “true independent film”, and that’s just fine. But some of the tropes you’d expect from a film of this ilk (constant music montages, jerky/out of focus camerawork and no holds-barred sexuality) – well, they started to outstay their welcome.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the soundtrack (there are a few songs I truly loved), but there was hardly a moment of screen time which wasn’t backed up by a tune of some kind. Call me traditional, but sometimes I just like to hear the conversation and dialogue; and enjoy the actor’s work – minus such constant distractions.
I wanted a bit more background on the characters – certainly for Leah. There’s a nice moment where her family is mentioned (actually a quite ingenious move on “Horny Hal’s” part) and it held a promise which was then never developed. As time went on, and Alina continued to ignore Leah, I became excited (from a dramatic storytelling standpoint) by how shitty a thing this was to do to a person, in light of Leah’s obvious love and financial investment in Alina. This was a great kernel of character goodness which is never further explored. And we gather that Leah goes somewhat deeper into her work, out of sheer loneliness (explained in her dinner date scene with “Bonestorm”). It’s a great way to gain sympathy for Leah (I really started feeling for her) and then we lose all of that momentum, are taken back into the world of Hal and the eventual kidnapping and the color-by-numbers “crazy” climax (there are even mannequins to try and up the potential Maniac qualities of Hal). And by the way, how uninspired (in idea and actor delivery) was the use of the child-mannequin?
The ending felt all too easy. And the stakes never felt high enough once Hal and Leah were in one another’s company. There’s no spoiler here – if you’re paying attention, you’ll know that an eventual “date” is coming.
BB is getting plenty of positive reviews, but I can’t offer it more than a 3-star rating. That’s certainly not the kiss of death, but not the ultimate bit of glowing praise a filmmaker might want either. It has too much squandered promise, too many unfulfilled moments, a lackluster climax and pieces which just don’t quite work.
The film is now available on select VOD platforms.