Throughout the Showtime-commissioned Very Young Girls, David Schisgall and Nina Alvarez repeatedly hammer the point that most prostitutes begin plying their trade at 13. Their insistence—exemplified by shots of girls skipping rope on the street and one subject’s sneakered feet barely touching the ground and slamming against each other—speaks to a certain need to shock. But Very Young Girls barely does, delivering less insight into the psychology of why young girls turn to prostitution than HBO’s Hookers. Essentially a talking-head reel, the documentary consists of interviews with around a half-dozen girls making their way in and out of the New York City organization GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Service). Though these brave young women are open about their relationships to their pimps, Schisgall and Alvarez value effect over cause, offering little to no insight into the unique pressures that drove their subjects to selling their bodies; we hear about their dreams of becoming this or that when they grow up, but nothing about poverty, drugs or abusive home lives. The documentary, though, is still worthwhile as a profile of the GEMS program and the goodwill of its director Rachel Lloyd, a former prostitute herself who’s no fan of the Oscar-winning “It’s Hard Out There for a Pimp” and who travels down to Miami at one point to meet one of her girls after she relapses. In one particularly jarring moment, seemingly stumbled upon, Rachel comforts a girl who struggles to decide whether she should use her real name inside GEMS—jarring because Carolina’s pain is heart-wrenching but also because the filmmakers never take advantage of this goldmine of insight by tying the girl’s need to hide behind an alias to whatever it is that keeps her going back to the street. As such, Very Young Girls suggests a squandered opportunity.
- 83 min
- David Schisgall, Nina Alvarez
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