" A giddy rom-com with beautiful impressions."
A sex-addicted journalist and a high-end prostitute strike an unlikely romance in the romantic comedy The Escort. Directed by Will Slocombe, this formulaic yet successful feature is a testament to the healing and rebuilding power of love.
Co-writer Michael Doneger stars as Mitch, a journalist writing mostly obituaries who gets hooked with a smartphone app that enables free sex with women. He is the type that gets up in the middle of a double date to jack off in the men’s bathroom. Or the type who leaves his seat to meet up for a quickie some place when his phone notifies him about someone up for it. Meanwhile, somewhere in downtown Los Angeles is Natalie (Lyndsy Fonseca), a Stanford-educated high-paid escort who walks and talks tough. Having no pimp, she frequents hotel bars for potential patrons.
So on this fateful night, while Mitch waits for his roll-in-the-sack partner, Natalie walks up to him, eyeing him as her next client. However, the two only misunderstand each other. The next day, Mitch’s life changes when his boss (Iqbal Theba) lays him off from his desk job. In the days that follow, he scours the street for job. A prestigious magazine editor (Sonya Walger) gives him a shot at staff position if he can come up with a highly-readable and intriguing human interest story.
Immediately, Mitch seeks out Natalie, believing that a story about escort services will be his ticket to a promising carreer. The two come up with a sort of deal based on their individual needs. In exchange for writing her story, Mitch would have to pose as her bodyguard against rowdy johns. Eventually, they let each other enter into their lives and soon form a special friendship. While Natalie helps Mitch reconnect with his super-rich yet stingy father Charles (Bruce Campbell) and motherless teenage sister (Rachel Resheff), he lends support as she opens up about her past and recreates her future.
The Escort opens with an interesting scene where Natalie makes out with a client who gets turned on being continuously slapped while being told he is prohibited from watching Game of Thrones and other Sunday night TV shows. It is an interesting and absolutely funny introduction, indicating the movie’s sex theme with tasteful and comedic approach. Through its strong and well-written script, it is not preachy or judgmental, not only on Natalie but also on Mitch and others who seek commitment-free and unemotionally-involved sex. It also speaks of sex as some people’s medium on resolving personal issues. With its romantic undertone, it explores how the characters found liberation from such perceptions and the will to rewrite their lives. Other well-meaning messages of the film are the technology’s effect on lives and the need for sexually-adventurous individuals to get regularly tested for diseases. Though the film becomes more predictable as it progresses, it remains engaging until its satisfying conclusion.
Its seemingly strong narrative is not without flaws. The back stories of Natalie and Mitch are quite underdeveloped, especially for the former whose tale would have bigger impact on women and victims like her. With Natalie receiving $1000-$3000 to sleep with men, the film indirectly glorifies prostitution. That income comes tax-free and Natalie gets to live a fancy lifestyle. Instead of these “advantages, “ the film should have dealt more with the dimmer side of the industry, especially the violence and emotional pain the escorts undergo through. That way, the movie would have more lasting impressions.
Its remarkable cast also keeps the movie afloat. Fonseca is undeniably the star of the film. She has an enigmatic Emma Stone-like presence. She has the sharpness and vulnerability of Natalie, a woman trapped in unforgiving circumstances. Indeed, she is a promising actress. Doneger is also an impressive male lead. He has the man-child qualities of Mitch, yet capable of developing maturity and wisdom. Together, Fonseca and Doneger make a great couple, their chemistry strong and beautiful. May they be able to work again in bigger films on larger screens.
Other than its plot and cast, the film also has striking sets and scene arrangements, at times odd or stunning. It gracefully catches the night-time streets of Los Angeles, the warmth of daytime, and even the clutter in Mitch’s small apartment. The huge wall mural is perhaps the most notable scenery, reflective of the film’s affecting subtexts.
The Escort succeeds in putting predictable elements together into an appealing film with its timely and sincere narrative. It is surprisingly beautiful, made even more surprising and beautiful with the solid delivery of its actors.