Combustible Celluloid
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With: Julia Fox, Peter Vack, Heather Allison, Buddy Duress, Keith Poulson, Nikki Belfiglio
Written by: Ben Hozie
Directed by: Ben Hozie
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 85
Date: 02/05/2021

PVT Chat (2021)

3 Stars (out of 4)

'Net Worth

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This bold indie drama grapples squarely with sex and eroticism in a time when most filmmakers seem shy about broaching such subjects. Written and directed by Ben Hozie, PVT Chat tells the story of Jack (Peter Vack), a fast-talking New Yorker who makes a living playing online blackjack, even though he seems to lose as often as he wins. He's also addicted to adult online chatrooms, and becomes especially hooked on one girl, a dom, Scarlet (Julia Fox, who gave such a great performance opposite Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems). He lies to her about running an internet startup, and she lies to him about living in San Francisco. When he spots her shopping at a local market, he becomes more and more obsessed with getting to know her and meeting her in person.

A perfect pandemic movie, PVT Chat is all about screens and wanting what's on the other side of them, but then not quite knowing what to do if we actually get it. When Jack is presented with the possibility of actual sex with a cute artist, Emma (Nikki Belfiglio), he sends her out for a bottle of wine, sneaks into her bedroom, chats with Scarlet, and climaxes into Emma's copy of Ulysses. But when Jack coaxes Scarlet into opening up a little, and she shows him some of her paintings, he begins to feel hopeful and valiant, and he agrees to help raise tuition money for a friend's son. This leads to the expected climax, but then to an also quite unexpected coda, bringing together all the movie's themes. Hozie creates an old-school Scorsese and Ferrara-like portrait of a grubby New York, where everyone seems to be bartering for something, and he gets fearless, naked (figuratively and literally) performances out of both Fox and Vack.

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