Working Girls

Working Girls ★★★★½

Cinema doesn't want for films about prostitution as perhaps the only logical profession in capitalism, the ultimate in selling one's body as labour-value. But I can't think of a depiction less weighed down by either purely political framing (hello, all you French cinéastes) or condescending pity than this. I also can't think of one that truly treats a brothel as an other workplace, complete with clients as a procession of sitcom-worthy goofs who make for great comedy. The madam who thinks of herself as a progressive, modern woman for no other reason than she doesn't beat her girls or get them hooked on smack is in every other respect a hilariously dead-on image of your shitty boss who blithely keeps the majority shares of generated profit and sashays in late every day wearing nice clothes that her workers got her with their labor as they lose most of their day's wages just buying lunch and condoms. (The aside of Lucy's obliviously "friendly" warning to a Black hire that she won't get as many johns as the white girls is icing on the cake for this brutal parody.) Add to it all the little insights into the ways the workers compartmentalize their private and working lives (and advise newcomers on how to do so) and this feels like one of the all-time great films about how your job, no matter what it is, fucking sucks.

And on top of it it's also brilliantly directed, particularly in the way it finds a balance between the erotic and the completely functional and dispassionate in its sex scenes. The camera darts along body parts and moves with thrusts and position changes, but there's enough of a coldness to put you in the mind of the women for whom this is just a job. And the purposefully bland "cheery" decor Lucy has erected to make the place absurdly feel "homey" hammers home that the eternal war of labor is between workers struggling to retain their personal selves outside the office and bosses who want more than anything to make you feel like the office is where you live.