For the most part, PVT Chat works pretty well as a sexually charged, thrilling, deep dive into loneliness, addiction and how online persona's differ from our true selves, yet the ending and overall message left a lot to be desired.
Written by Becca Johnson
PVT Chat tells the story of lonely internet gambler Jack (Peter Vack), who becomes fixated on a cam girl named Scarlet (Julia Fox). When their paths end up crossing on a rainy day in New York City, fantasy begins to materialise into reality.
Film fans have been anxiously waiting for Julia Fox's next role after her flawless debut in 2019's Netflix Original Uncut Gems, and it's safe to say that she once again delivers a great performance. Peter Vack managed to match her performance well, personifying the lonely character of Jack with ease. The side performances unfortunately didn't bring much to the table, largely due to weakness in the script meaning the actors had little to work with, yet Fox and Vack bring enough chemistry to make this forgivable. The shift in perspective half-way through the film from Jack to Scarlet elevates PVT Chat to a higher level as it gives the audience a much needed look into the lives of both characters, and therefore both sides of the transaction of online eroticism.
PVT Chat definitely doesn't hold back with it's provocative scenes, leaving little to the imagination as our main character Jack explores the online world of chat-rooms, yet this allows for some commentary that will definitely get the brain ticking. Jack is an online gambler as well as an avid chat-room user, and the audience also discover he is weeks behind on rent, allowing us to see how those with addictive personalities can be sucked into the online world and become stuck in a loop. This also opens up discussions on the sub-plot of loneliness, as Jack finds solace in cam girl Scarlet after his room-mate dies leaving him completely alone. This asks the old-age question of whether real love is possible through online eroticism, as Jack starts to favour the conversations over the intended purpose of pleasure. Scarlet knows exactly what to say to get more money out of Jack, yet he is so keen on making her happy that he doesn't seem to realise the obvious trap.
It also dives into the very relevant topic of online persona's, and how they can differ from our real selves. Jack informs Scarlet that he is a loaded app developer, yet he is ultimately penniless, jobless and on the brink of homelessness. The script manages to explore how this can come back and bite us, as Jack realises honesty may have been the best policy. However, the film could've had some really interesting messages to portray about sex work, but it unfortunately misses this opportunity to pursue other themes. We live in a generation where sex work is becoming more and more common yet is still very much frowned upon, so the script could've lent itself to this conversation very well. Only once during PVT Chat is the prejudice of sex work really talked about, and it's a brief mentioning at that, yet this ultimately could have been the main focus. The ending also sends a very negative message, leaving a bad taste in the audience's mouth and playing up to the fantasy of the chat-room user.
PVT Chat was admirable in it's performances, its look into addiction and loneliness, and the majority of its technical elements. The handheld camera was used really effectively to increase the sense of urgency and turn this into more of a thriller than a drama. It was definitely a wild ride, taking many twists and turns along the way, but unfortunately the lack of discourse about the sex work industry and the ending really let it down. If it had been just five minutes shorter, we could be looking at a completely different and arguably more effective film.