‘Hot Girls Wanted’ is a provocative but ultimately shallow exposé of reality porn industry

Photo: Miami International Film Festival

Hot Girls Wanted opens with a line claiming that more people visit pornography websites each month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined! Whether that number is accurate or not, it’s nevertheless alarming and an attention-getter. This is a running theme of co-directors Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus’ pot-stirring doc. The film, which was produced by Rashida Jones and is being distributed by Netflix, proceeds to introduce us to Riley, a 23-year-old Miami native who went from working as a waiter at an Outback Steakhouse to owning a five-bedroom house when he switched careers to become a pornography talent manager. Riley’s game is simple: Every week, he goes on Craigslist and posts an ad looking for hot models with an offer of free housing, a free trip to Miami, a fun experience and the promise of earning more than $900 a week.

For the girls who answer his ad with their attached nude selfies, this scenario is a dream! When they arrive in town, he picks them up, has them stay at his shoddily-kept five-bedroom palace, dolls them up, and then puts their mugs on his “talent” website for porn companies to hire. He also has them create a Twitter handle because no social media network is more beneficial for a pornstar than Twitter. The girls who come knocking tend to be naïve 18 to 21-year-olds from small towns in Middle America looking to get away from their “boring” lives. The allure of quick money, easy fame and massive attention is a killer combination.

But as we’ve seen and read in countless other stories about people who go to the big town in hopes of becoming a star, reality soon sets in. When they stop receiving offers and don’t receive calls from L.A. for shoots in the first couple of months, they resort to working for niche video sites—things like abuse porn and bondage. As Riley tells us, the majority of girls last only between one to three months in the industry before calling it quits. But that isn’t much of a problem for him because, as he creepily adds nonchalantly, “Every day a new girl turns 18… and every day, a new girl wants to do porn.”

One of these girls is Tressa, a 19-year-old former cheerleader from Texas who left her family to come to Miami for the same reasons thousands of other teens did: quick money and fame. We meet her during her first month in the business and watch as she travels back and forth between her Texan hometown and Miami, struggling to make gigs. Watching her break the news to her mom and boyfriend about her career in porn is both cringe-worthy and heart-breaking because of how honest it feels. While you watch them react to her tears, you realize that these two people will never look at her the same way again.

Tressa, who is the closest thing to the film’s protagonist, is the ideal girl for Riley because she’s the perfect model for a subgenre of porn he specializes in—“amateur” porn. Amateur porn is a burgeoning genre in which professional films are shot to look like homemade videos, thus giving viewers the impression that the people they’re watching are not actors. And for the most part, these girls aren’t actors. They’re simply wannabes with delusions of grandeur, something that Bauer and Gradus posit is the by-product of a society that has become desensitized to sexual imagery—thanks to celebrities like Robin Thicke, Justin Bieber, Nikki Minaj and the Kardashians. The filmmakers also suggest that our materialistic culture and casual sex has programmed girls into believing that pornography is acceptable. They accomplish this via slick, rapid-fire montages of music videos filled with sexual imagery.

While the abundance of these montages, as well as a plethora of stats like “40% of porn depicts violence against women” and “abuse porn is more popular than McDonalds” are informative, even powerful, the filmmakers’ decision to not delve deeper into these points ends up stifling its impact. Is it an exposé of the pornography industry or simply a PowerPoint presentation? Moreover, the film doesn’t dig into what makes these girls take up porn? Is it social media and celebrity culture? Is it our male-dominated society? Is it their rural, religious upbringing? Is it our materialistic culture? Or is it a combination of all these elements? By refusing to give the audience a concrete answer, and choosing a broad approach to the material, the filmmakers leave us hanging with more questions than answers. Perhaps this was their original intention. This may work for stirring up post-film discussions but it doesn’t make for very fulfilling cinema.

B-

 

HOT GIRLS WANTED

Director: Jill Bauer, Ronna Gradus
Screenwriter: Brittany Huckabee
Cast: Tressa Silguero, Riley Reynolds, Kendall Plemons
Producer: Rashida Jones, Jill Bauer, Ronna GradusBrittany Huckabee

Editor: Brittany Huckabee
Cinematographer: Ronna Gradus
Music: Tyler Strickland, Daniel Ahearn (songs)

Running time: 82 minutes
Companies: Netflix, Two to Tangle Productions
Rating: N/A

Hot Girls Wanted is now available to stream on Netflix.

Trailer:

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