When I reviewed the movie Kink, a fluff piece documentary about the BDSM porn site Kink.com, I faulted the film for being stubbornly one-sided. Kink presented such a positive, non-critical view of its subject that it played a lot more like a long-form advertisement than a proper documentary. The Rashida Jones-produced amateur porn documentary Hot Girls Wanted unfortunately repeats Kink’s cinematic sins, except from the other side of the fence. The entire movie plays like an 80min version of the “Shame! Shame! Shame!” scene that recently aired on Game of Thrones, offering a wholly negative view of amateur pornography as an industry. Granted, it certainly found a lot of grotesque, incisive business practices to publicly shame here, but it also suggests that there are people who have had positive experiences in the industry without exploring those threads of thought. It’s a deliberately one-sided issue documentary meant to influence the viewer’s opinions on the subject at hand instead of objectively presenting the facts. Like with a lot of films in that vein, Hot Girls Wanted is surprisingly affecting, admirable even, but not exactly an example of exceptional film-making.
Hot Girls Wanted is at least smart about keeping its subject concise. Instead of tackling the porn industry as a whole, it follows a group of six female roommates in Miami, FL who have been recruited to shoot amateur pornography. The girls are all white, recent high school graduates who enter the industry as a way of getting away from their controlled home lives. They’re recruited into the lifestyle by a 23 year old scumbag who purposefully manipulates young women through Craigslist ads into becoming “adult models”. The reason the industry has such a strong foothold in Miami is because California recently passed a law requiring all pornography shoots to include condoms. Once in Miami, these girls are convinced to have unprotected sex on camera for sizeable (but far from long-lasting) sums of money until they’re replaced by the next crop of fresh faces (usually less than a year down the line). The films’s strongest moments is when it allows the girls to speak for themselves.
It’s when Hot Girls Wanted strays from telling these six girls’ stories to attempt to make larger points about the culture that supports their decisions to enter porn that it fumbles the ball. Blaming influences like celebrity sex tapes, the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, and music videos from the likes of Nicki Minaj & Miley Cyrus is kind of a cheap pot shot that has little to do with the task at hand. In just the first few minutes of the film, it’s slyly suggested that selfies are a gateway drug to making amateur pornography and if I had rolled my eyes any harder I would’ve gone permanently blind. The goal of Hot Girls Wanted is extremely admirable. The negative creeps the film exposes are hauntingly predatory and their unsuspecting teen prey are more or less children that don’t know exactly what they’re getting into until it’s too late. It’s only when the film wavers a little from telling specific stories to trying to make a larger point about modern culture as a whole that it loses me completely.
Hot Girls Wanted also has a tendency to present a wholly negative view of the amateur porn industry and pursues only the avenues that support its viewpoint. For example, late in the film it’s suggested that some of the subjects have had positive experiences creating & distributing pornography on their own through webcam technology. It seems to me that that’s the kind of thing you might want to follow up on if you want to tell a complete story, instead of taking time to mock the Kardashians or the art of the selfie. It’s completely understandable why Hot Girls Wanted would want to stick to the supporting evidence, since its entire goal is to change minds about an industry it believes to be exclusively poisonous. It’s just that as a film, this one-sided approach is just about as exciting as when Kink went in the exact opposite direction: a little, but not very.