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USA 2012
Directed by
Jill Bauer / Ronna Gradus
83 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

Sexy Baby

Synopsis: A documentary about the pornification of contemporary consumer culture.

After its montage-style opening credits over a scene-setting backdrop of hyper-sexualised advertising billboards, raunchy music video and internet porn, Sexy Baby begins with a 4 year old girl aping the sexually-provocative moves in a Lady Gaga video as her rather embarrassed lawyer mother, Jeni, looks on. It is a scene that. like what is to come, is variously sad, funny, and staggeringly disturbing.

Jeni is the mother of Winnifred, a whip-smart NYC 12 year old and one of the 3 “women” who represent contemporary American female sexuality in Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus’ outstanding documentary. Their other subjects are Nichole, aka Nikita Kash, a 32 year old former “adult” movie actress who is trying to get pregnant and settle into a more conventional lifestyle and 22 year old Laura, a kindergarten teacher’s aide about to undergo labiaplasty so that she will be more attractive to a potential boyfriend.

Sexy Baby is a superbly-crafted doco whose strength is in the extensive and candid access it has to its subjects and the absence of any third party preaching. There are no talking heads commenting on the endemic commodification of female sexuality in mainstream media, the psychological and moral debasement of childhood and adolescence, or the unwanted fruits of the1960’s sexual revolution. These points are all here but although, needless to say, the directors make their case through their editing, their material speaks loudly enough for itself.

Winnifred is very much the epicentre of the film. Not only is she exemplary of the upcoming generation of young women suckled on an unending diet of sexual imagery and habituated to a world of virtual connectivity, she’s hip-as, cheeky, self-aware and cute as a button. Far less appealing is Nichole, a woman who has made career of exploiting her sex and now, well and truly past her use-by date (“32” has to be a serious under-valuation), is continuing the pattern by exploiting the assets of younger women by running a business that trains and books them into “gentlemen’s” clubs. Where Nichole is cynically cunning, Laura, in many ways the indirect victim of Nichole's trade, is a tragic naïf whose self-worth is predicated on her desirability as a sex object. Typical of the film’s editing style we see Nichole training young women as pole dancers then cut to a happily post-labiaplasty Laura tantalizing some male with similar moves on a night-club dance floor. Sad, sad, sad.

The film ranges across the lives of these three people with astonishing frankness. We see Winnifred’s separated, liberal-minded parents haplessly trying to reconcile themselves with their offspring’s unnatural precocity; Nichole and her husband feebly trying to reconcile the middle-class normality to which they aspire with their sex industry day jobs; and Laura in the hands of some creepy “doctor” who, one surmises, got his medical qualifications from the University of Scrubs, as her mother sheds tears, whether of joy or sorrow it's hard to tell, at her daughter's tilt at happiness.

Sexy Baby is a superb effort, poignant, entertaining and informative and, for anyone interested in where we are heading as a society, a must-see.




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