THE STORY – The soft, red glow of a computer screen illuminates a grungy New York apartment. Jack (Peter Vack) furiously jerks off as San-Francisco camgirl Scarlet (Julia Fox) unzips a black leather jumpsuit. She then exposes herself, then sits back, cigarette in hand; Her relaxed indifference is a central feature of her appeal. Jack gambles online during the day and spends his winnings on Scarlet at night. As their conversations deepen and their relationship progresses beyond just customer and client, however, Jack wants to meet. Separated by middle America, Scarlet insists on the impossibility of their meeting until Jack spots her on a rainy street in New York’s Chinatown. Is Jack’s obsession twisting his perception, and does Scarlet have a reason to lie?
THE CAST – Peter Vack & Julia Fox
THE TEAM – Ben Hozie (Writer/Director)
THE RUNNING TIME – 85 Minutes
By Sam Howe
The story of “PVT Chat” revolves around Jack (Peter Vack), a man who earns money online gambling in the day and spends it on Cam girls at night. When he discovers dominatrix Scarlet (Julia Fox), he becomes obsessed with her and the lines between online and real-life begin to blur as the two grow close. The film is full of sex, kink, mystery, sadness, and is a darkly funny plunge into loneliness and intimate connections in an endlessly connected world.
Julia Fox erupted onto the film stage with an electric supporting role in last year’s “Uncut Gems,” bringing a really unique energy to the screen to match her startling physical appearance. In what is only her second film role here in “PVT Chat,” she completely steals the show and proves that she is destined to be a new type of movie star. Before her time as an actress, Fox had many jobs, one of which was actually as a dominatrix. It helps lend the film some authenticity knowing that she’s basing her performance on real-world experience. You immediately buy Fox in the actual cam girl scenes playing up her “persona” with the kinks, nudity, and everything else involved. Then she is able to show the other side to her acting abilities as she gradually starts to open up and we see the vulnerability and hidden deceptions the character has, which allows Fox to dig into the emotions she hinted at in “Uncut Gems.” Much has been made of her striking beauty but even when you put that to the side, she is a really fascinating screen presence and I think in this social media age, she can become a new type of movie star.
Despite getting outshined by his co-star, leading man Peter Vack gives a strong performance of his own and successfully operates as the audience surrogate into this depraved world that his character has ventured into. He never tries to be too sympathetic. He allows the audience make up their own mind about his actions and behaviors, allowing him to stay true to exactly how this type of person typically behaves. Both the lead stars are incredibly committed to the roles in every way, whether it is the full-frontal nudity, frequent masturbation, or the emotionally raw and sexual scenes, these two put everything on the line at all times and are absolutely the main reason to watch this film.
Rockstar Ben Hozie directs “PVT Chat” (which he also wrote) with an intentionally grimy and frantic feel to it, making the viewer feel like they are truly in the world that Jack has immersed himself in, leading to an uncomfortably voyeuristic experience when watching the movie. This is an excellent mirror into the way that we all live our lives online now, peaking into everyone’s life and how it increasingly can feel real when it is truly just a version of ourselves that we have put out there. This is well explored with the dynamics of Jack and Scarlet’ relationship, but it is a shame that the weak screenplay manages to fumble the ending by trying to tie in plot twists, wish-fulfillment, and unnecessary sub-plots which end up leaving the film feeling like it could’ve been something really special in the hands of a more experienced writer, but that is far from what we got.
“PVT Chat” isn’t a great movie but it is far from a terrible one. It has a lot on its mind and some of it is expressed effectively, creating a strong atmosphere that puts the viewer right into the heart of this uncomfortable world. You will have to make up your own mind as to whether that’s something you want to experience or not when choosing to watch this film.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Julia Fox is the real deal. She’s a totally unique and fascinating movie star. The direction creates an intentionally voyeuristic viewing experience for the audience that mirrors the life the lead character is living.
THE BAD – An inability to stick the landing when it comes to the social commentary it was trying to make. This is a weak screenplay that lets down a promising idea.
THE OSCARS – None