Reviews

Cuties

4:55 PM

I had to do it, guys. I had to. 


The Netflix film has gone viral, and many people are demanding Netflix to drop it. Others are boycotting the streaming service altogether. Some people are saying the film is really not bad, that it's just the marketing behind it. 

I'm not going to talk about a movie I haven't watched... so I watched it. Here are my thoughts. 

Cuties - a netflix film

 
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First I'm going to give you a summary of some of the major plot points in the film. This does contain spoilers. Then I'll break down a little more of my thoughts on the film itself. 

Summary of the film

The first thing you see in the film is a young girl, Amy, drawing on cardboard and cutting out flowers and a drawing of her family, arranging it in the shape of a heart. She lays it on her mother's bed. The scene was important because it sets the audience up for knowing how much she loves her family (and the family unit as it is). 

Our first glimpse of the “sexuality” of the film is in a laundry room where a young skinny white girl (Angelica) is wearing leather pants, a crop top, and shaking her hips and snaking her arms as she switches her loads of laundry. She dances over to the ironing board, and starts to press her hair flatter. She is lost in the beat of the music and doesn’t notice Amy watching her, entranced by her movements and fluidity and confidence. When Angelica does finally see her, Amy is embarrassed and backs away. The dance itself, though definitely not appropriate for an 11-year-old girl, isn’t necessarily out of the ordinary of something a girl of that age would do. (We all ironed our hair and tried to shake our hips at that age, right?)





But while a crop top and inappropriate shorts are something fine to wear around the house doing laundry, things do start to get a bit more obvious at school the next day. In the schoolyard on Amy’s first day of school, Angelica is wearing a pencil skirt, a very tiny top that resembles a bikini top, and the rest of her little click is dressed to match. Amy is either impressed or shocked by their behavior in front of the principal, and the hero-worship begins.

The real story starts to develop as Amy finds out (by accident) that her father has taken a second wife. She hears her mother crying and struggling to share the news with her friends and family. Amy is very hurt by the fact that her mother is hurt, and begins resenting her father, including a scene where her father is on the phone and she drops the phone out the window. 

There is a scene with the Cuties bullying Amy at school, and consists of the typical in-your-face laughter, mocking her, calling her “homeless” because of her appearance, tossing her bag around, etc. Despite the bullying, she still follows them around and is drawn to them. Later she meets them in a bathroom where they are looking at boys undressed, and discussing blowjobs and rape. She is intrigued by their conversation and is coerced into going into the men’s bathroom to try to film a boy using a urinal. When she returns from the bathroom, the girls have run away.

Amy seems to be attracted to the girls because they are pretty, and they exude confidence. She tries to mimic their movements, she starts wearing her brother’s t-shirts so it rides up like a crop top, and she steals her brother's phone to take duck-face photos on an Instagram account. She also re-watches the routine and practices it in the bathroom by herself, and searches the internet for other videos of sexualized dancing. 

Angelica seems to notice that Amy is trying to mimic them (or at least be around them) and goes over to her house, and eventually invites her to the Cuties rehearsal. Once she is “in” with Angelica, and another member has a falling-out, Amy is put in after proving herself competent with twerking.

The scene where Amy teaches the other girls to twerk is very uncomfortable. They spend a lot of time on the ground, smacking each other’s bottoms in shorts. When they do finally “figure it out,” they have a little twerk-dance party, that is highly sexualized, including rubbing each other's bottoms, pinching each other, etc.





The second seriously concerning scene is when the girls sneak into a laser tag joint, and are escorted to the lobby when they are found out. They are told the cops are being called, and they try to dance their way out of the situation. The older man spends way too much time staring at Amy gyrating like a porn star, smiling and saying “okay, okay.” They get away with it, and the idea of revealing oneself to get what you want is reinforced to Amy.

At school, the Cuties see their rivals, who throw a can at them. Amy is inflated in confidence because of the likes on social media and the rush from getting into the competition. Amy rushes one of the girls and she gets her pants pulled down during the fight (at first by accident but then their rivals try to film them). The girls say things like "I don't know what we are going to do. Now they all think we are little girls." This causes Amy to steal money from her mother and take her friends shopping to buy adult lingerie. It is all romantic opera music combined with sexual poses, throwing underwear around. 



Later when she is discovered with the phone, she takes a picture of her genitals and posts it online, hoping it will make up for the fact that everyone saw her “little girl underwear” at school. She gets into a fight in class and the Cuties essentially kick her out for being a whore. She is furious because she did it to save their "image," but has now ruined hers, and ruined her chance of dancing in the competition.

When her mother finds out about the fight and the clothing, she is beat, splashed with water, and cries as her mother and aunt try to essentially "anoint" the sin out of her. She begins to shiver, which turns into her twerking, thrusting her chest, and riding the ground, accompanied by indigenous music and backed with her gasps and pants. The scene absolutely simulates a sex scene without a partner, ending with a look of relief where she sighs and closes her eyes, sweat, tears, and water dripping down her face as she relaxes in satisfaction and exhaustion.   

During the competition, which literally looks like something out of a porno, it flashes from the gyrating dancers to the audience, who at first are enjoying the dance but eventually become uncomfortable. The judges seem to be discussing something, and some of the members of the audience are grimacing and covering their kids eyes.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, while Amy is facing the back with her butt to the audience, she seems to have an epiphany of sorts. She begins to cry, and she runs off the stage, running straight home in her infamous blue sparkly outfit.


 



Her mother is getting dressed for the wedding. Amy embraces her mother and cries, and begs her mother not to go to the wedding. Her mother tells Amy it’s okay if she doesn’t want to go, but steels herself and goes anyway.

The film concludes with Amy brushing out her hair, wearing a simple but flattering tshirt and jeans, and playing jump rope outside with the kids who are simply celebrating. The shot pans up towards the horizon, and Amy continues jumping into and out of the shot, like she is rising with the camera. She is happy and smiles with pure joy on her face for one of the first times in the movie.

My thoughts

I tried to go into this thing as unbiased as possible, and give it the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it was artistic and people were just hating on the marketing? 

Nope.

First let's talk about the scene with Amy teaching the girls to twerk. The thing about this scene is that it could be innocent. It could be just a bunch of girls trying to figure out their bodies and experiment with sexuality, but it’s so obviously professionally choreographed and coached. Kids don’t dance like that. Adults dance like that and teach it to kids. 

In fact, that's one of the things I have a problem with throughout all the dancing scenes - kids don't dance like that. Even kids who are naturals, who watch videos on YouTube and TikTok and try to mimic the movements don't dance like that without someone actually teaching them how to dance like that. 

If the dancing had simply been bad, the way a bunch of untrained eleven-year-olds look when they are trying to do bad hip hop, it probably would have been uncomfortably hilarious and made its point without being a pedophile's wet dream. 

Second, I get that sometimes you have to make someone uncomfortable to prove a point. Some people are online saying this film has gotten a bad reputation because of the marketing, and that it’s really not that bad. I disagree. Since when does making a point have to be so graphic? This story could have been told in a beautiful, poignant way. It could have followed almost the same plot but catered a little more to the fact that these kids are barely double digits, and it could have been really powerful. But the sex was so front and center that I feel it actually distracted from the point.  

The biggest issue I had? The creator claims the point of the film was to call out hypersexualizing children and show how it is bad. But the film did such a bad job of doing that. It just accepted it. It gave no major penalties for the sexualization. There was little to no growth. If that was the point you were trying to make, you failed. 

I think I get it, I really do. Amy is conflicted and torn between her mother’s religion which feels is ruining her life, and wanting to be part of a group of girls who she thinks are cool. She makes sacrifices and compromises along the way that put her in a place where she is very unhappy. It isn’t until she discards both and truly "finds herself" that she feels the confidence and joy that she was seeking.

High concept. Poor execution. Poor, nasty, inappropriate, disgusting execution.

On an unrelated note, the movie was obviously dubbed. Personally, I thought it took away from the whole thing as the voice acting felt odd (though I doubt subtitles and original voices would have done much to improve the overall experience). 

The Dance Industry

It is commonplace for the dances at competitions to be inappropriate enough for people to cover their kid's eyes. The costumes the girls are wearing are not even the worst I've seen. In fact, the costumes, knee pads, and hairspray and glitter on their faces looked exactly like something you'd see at a comp. 

Does this film do a good job of exposing the sexuality that is accepted in competitions? Yes!

But that's not what the movie is about. And because it's not what it was about, it's so glossed over that it's practically a moot point. If someone wants to make a movie about a girl who feels she has to dance sexually to fit in and goes to a competition and has a baby-life crisis there, be my guest. Call out every nasty dance, risque costume, and unfair judge you can. Go for it! 

But the competition aspect was not the central part of the film, and the film itself did nothing to actually confront the problem. It just accepted it. 

I urge you to skip this film. It's not worth your time or your money, and you'll come away more offended than you went in. 

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