PVT Chat is the feature debut of New York City-based independent filmmaker Ben Hozie, starring Julia Fox, the knockout star of 2019’s Uncut Gems, as cam girl Scarlet and Peter Vack as the innocuous Jack, an online gambling addict who develops a school-boy crush on Scarlet that at intervals threatens to get out of hand.
Jack depletes his finances on an online concoction of gambling and girls – but with Scarlet an obsession begins to grow. (We do get a wonderful but brief appearance from actress Dasha Nekrasova) Jack begs to know ‘real’ details of Scarlet’s life, he becomes giddy, almost hysterical when she reveals she’s a painter. Vack plays his character’s childish infatuation convincingly, meanwhile, Fox once again plays a fantastic and captivating ‘cool girl’. (Fox briefly worked as a dominatrix in one of her many lives which is why she inhabits the character so well) Scarlet blithely asks if she’s Jack’s favourite cam girl, “you’re my favourite girl, period”, he excitedly replies. Things turn strange however and a subdued game of cat and mouse begins when Jack spots Scarlet in a Chinatown convenience on a very rainy night in the city. Suddenly the online fantasy is IRL and under his very nose.
Despite the release of PVT Chat being pushed back due to the ongoing pandemic, now if anything feels like the perfect time for a movie to explore the world of online sex, as so many of us are currently touch-deprived and seeking out intimacy electronically. We saw a rise in popularity of online platforms such as OnlyFans (a content subscription service) during the pandemic and in one scene of PVT Chat Jack is offered real-life sex only to turn it down and hit up Scarlett instead. Is this a scary foreshadowing of post-pandemic hook-ups, as we become so acclimatised to sex online?
There are scenes in this movie that feel intrusive, almost like you’re watching something you’re not supposed to be. The fly-on-the-wall quality to PVT Chat might be down to the movie being shot on a handheld camera, the shots exaggerate the extent of Jack’s dingy lifestyle and paint out New York City as a rather gloomy place for sex and love.
There’s still a flicker of comedy in this film however, a scene where Scarlett ashes a cigarette through the screen onto Jack’s wagging tongue pokes fun at the sometimes absurdness of cybersex and we the audience get to stifle a giggle at this too, from our screens to theirs.
PVT Chat is now available to stream on Amazon here.