×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

SXSW Film Review: ‘Babysitter’

In actor Morgan Krantz's first directorial feature, a divorce forms the backdrop of a coming-of-age story.

With:
Max Burkholder, Daniele Watts, Valerie Azlynn, Robin Thomas Grossman, Lesley Ann Warren, Robert F. Lyons, Kitty Patterson, Gracie Loveland, Amy Landecker.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3446062/

Addled children of the entertainment industry — a teenage boy in the midst of his movie-making parents’ divorce and the daughter of a deceased, drug-addicted singer — forge a friendship that escalates into a deeper affection in “Babysitter.” This feature directorial debut from actor Morgan Krantz (who also wrote and edited) has fine turns from Max Burkholder (TV’s “Parenthood”) and Daniele Watts (“Weeds”) to recommend it, but it also plays like it’s been strung together from several underdeveloped ideas, few of them satisfying. It’s a minor-key effort that will have trouble holding its own in a market glutted with wispy coming-of-age indies.

“Babysitter” opens with Ray (Burkholder) taking about the experience of seeing his mother, actress Hailey (Valerie Azlynn), in a werewolf movie — an overbearing metaphor that resurfaces at film’s end. Hailey is embroiled in a custody battle over Ray and his younger sister, Stella (Gracie Loveland). For her, Mom hires a new babysitter, Anjelika (Watts), who happens to be the daughter of a singer named Dey, one of Hailey’s favorites. Hailey cluelessly plays Dey’s music in the house, oblivious to the way Anjelika is bothered by her late mother’s songs.

But Ray and Anjelika get along. She helps him with a pot hookup, and he makes a poorly planned entrance into his school’s weed market, hoping to impress Sadie (Kitty Patterson), who’s cozy with another dealer. Anjelika has a Wiccan spell book, and Ray discovers evidence that suggests she’s trying to make him fall for her. Romance between the two seems inevitable. Still, Ray suspects her motives and foolishly persists in carrying a torch for Sadie.

“Babysitter” doesn’t flinch from portraying the ugliness of the divorce, for which Ray is given a chance to provide a deposition. Hailey’s director husband (Robin Thomas Grossman) angrily shows up at the house with a video camera. Hailey admits to feeling jaded. “I look at them and see paragraphs in a court document,” she says of her children. When her racist Texan parents (Lesley Ann Warren and Robert F. Lyons) come for a visit, having apparently driven to L.A. in an RV, Hailey makes Anjelika, who is African-American, dress up like a maid, for fear that treating her like a member of the family might offend them. It’s at this point that the fraught dynamics of “Babysitter” start to feel trumped up.

The same goes for the finale, which involves an abrupt and an ill-conceived extortion plot that is not resolved satisfactorily. The film’s irresolution feels more like a screenwriting failure than an instance of productive ambiguity.

A soft look and flourishes like a lyrical clothed-sex montage do little to set Krantz’s aesthetic apart from that of what might be called the David Gordon Green brigade. That said, Blu-ray projection at the New York press screening attended did not help the film to put its best foot forward.

SXSW Film Review: 'Babysitter'

Reviewed at Magno Review 2, New York, March 9, 2015. (In SXSW Film Festival — Visions.) Running time: 77 MIN.

Production: A Totally Standard production in association with Willowspring Films and Unbundled Underground. (International sales: Preferred Content, Los Angeles.) Produced by Luke Baybak, Eric Pumphrey, Kyle Marvin. Executive producers, Galo LeBron, Michael Covino, Sam Kretchmar. Co-producers, Colin Sutherland, Scott Lines, Barry Honig.

Crew: Directed, written, edited by Morgan Krantz. Camera (color, HD), Eli Born; music, Josh Grondin; production designer, Ashley Fenton; art director, Susie Francis; costume designer, Callan Stokes; sound, Nathan Ruyle; associate producers, Michael Brauser, Gianni Kovacevic, Cesare Gagliardoni, Amir Adnani, Elizabeth Baybak, Randall Reneau; assistant director, Carly Sturgeon; casting, Danielle Aufiero, Amber Horn.

With: Max Burkholder, Daniele Watts, Valerie Azlynn, Robin Thomas Grossman, Lesley Ann Warren, Robert F. Lyons, Kitty Patterson, Gracie Loveland, Amy Landecker.

More Film

  • Oscar OScars Placeholder

    Cinematographers Praise Academy Reversal: 'We Thank You for Your Show of Respect'

    Cinematographers who fought the decision to curtail four Oscar presentations have praised the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for reversing the exclusions. “We thank you for your show of respect for the hard-working members of the film community, whose dedication and exceptional talents deserve the public recognition this reversal now allows them to enjoy,” [...]

  • Peter Parker and Miles Morales in

    'Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse' Colored Outside the Lines

    The well-worn superhero genre and one of its best-known icons are unlikely vehicles for creating a visually fresh animated feature. But Sony Pictures Animation’s work on the Oscar-nominated animated feature “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” shows throwing out the rule book and letting everyone play in the creative sandbox can pay off big. “I think we [...]

  • Denis Villeneuve

    Denis Villeneuve's 'Dune' Gets November 2020 Release Date

    Warner Bros. has scheduled Legendary’s science-fiction tentpole “Dune” for a Nov. 20, 2020, release in 3D and Imax. “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa is in negotiations to join the “Dune” reboot with Timothee Chalamet, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac, and Zendaya. Production is expected to launch in the spring [...]

  • James Bond Spectre

    Bond 25 Moved Back Two Months to April 2020

    James Bond will arrive two months later than planned as MGM moved back the release date on the untitled Bond 25 movie from Feb. 14 to April 8, 2020 — a Wednesday before the start of Easter weekend. It’s the second delay for Bond 25. MGM and Eon originally announced in 2017 that the film [...]

  • Fast and Furious 8

    'Fast and Furious 9' Release Date Pushed Back Six Weeks

    Universal Pictures has shifted “Fast and Furious 9” back six weeks from April 10 to May 22, 2020 — the start of the Memorial Day weekend. It’s the second backwards shift for the title. In 2017, Universal moved the film back a year from April 19, 2019, to April 10, 2020. Both dates fall on [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    'Alita' Inching Past 'Lego Movie 2' at Presidents Day Weekend Box Office

    James Cameron’s “Alita: Battle Angel” has a slight edge over “The Lego Movie 2” in a tight race for domestic box office supremacy during Presidents Day weekend. Both are aiming for about $27 million, early estimates showed on Friday. More Reviews Film Review: 'Great Bear Rainforest' London Theater Review: 'The American Clock' The two titles [...]

  • Ludwig Goransson Black Panther Composer

    Complete Guide to This Year's Oscar-Nominated Scores

    Unlike the song category, it’s impossible to predict the winner from this year’s quintet of original-score nominees. It’s almost anyone’s game. Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson spent a month in Africa recording unusual drums, flutes and vocals, then adding them to a massive London orchestra and choir to create a unique soundscape for the fictional land [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content