You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Back to IndieWire

Reviews: Netflix’s Amateur Porn Documentary ‘Hot Girls Wanted’

Reviews: Netflix's Amateur Porn Documentary 'Hot Girls Wanted'

Netflix has been making a pronounced foray into documentary distribution, but there’s something especially poignant about Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus’ “Hot Girls Wanted” ending up on the streaming service, viewed on the same laptops a good chunk of its audience uses to watch pornography. Bauer and Gradus’ focus is specifically on so-called “amateur” porn, the lowest run of the $14 billion dollar-a-year industry’s economic ladder. Not surprisingly, they find it rife with exploitation, populated by young women just older enough to be legal but not always wise enough to see the trauma that likely awaits them.

Critics generally find “Hot Girls Wanted” powerful, although some say its argument in favor of the porn performers’ basic humanity — they’re all “somebody’s daughter” — doesn’t go far enough, and others accuse it of short-changing the argument that doing porn can be empowering, or at least no less exploitative many other jobs. The movie is streaming on Netflix now, so make up your own mind; just don’t expect it to turn you on.

Reviews of “Hot Girls Wanted”

Geoff Berkshire, Variety

An intimate and ultimately harrowing peek inside the world of amateur porn, “Hot Girls Wanted” will shock and outrage audiences in equal measure. Just maybe not in the numbers some might think, given the staggering statistics on how many people already view the scores of online clips that use naive young women as so much grist for the mill. Filmmakers Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus adopt a slick but respectful approach, shrewdly playing the subject’s titillating elements to their advantage. That could make the pic one of the year’s hottest doc titles, a position that the film’s considerable substance would duly reward.

Leslie Felperin, Hollywood Reporter

These subjects’ stories illustrate the industry’s insidiousness perfectly well by themselves. Nevertheless, Bauer and Gradus up the ante with intermittent rapid-fire, fair-use montages, nimbly cut by screenwriter-editor-producer Brittany Huckabee, that illustrate not just the broader world of online porn but also the highly sexualized culture teenagers are immersed in these days, bombarded every day with media coverage of Rihanna’s nipples, Kim Kardashian’s ass or Nicki Minaj’s twerking skills. The implication is that it’s no wonder kids today have become desensitized and think of sex as no big deal, a valid point but one that might be said with more authority and clarity. Praise is due to Huckabee in particular for finding ways to crop, frame and cut away in such a fashion as to avoid showing anything explicit that might further exploit the subjects. 

Jason Bailey, Flavorwire

In the Q&A following the film’s Sundance screening Sunday morning, director Gradus noted that they’re “not anti-pornography. Jill and I are not trying to say ‘Let’s end porn.’ It’s always been around… We always say this is like the ‘Super Size Me’ of porn, which is just to make consumers aware of what goes into what they’re watching.” The film, which veers from upsetting to haunting to heartbreaking, does just that; their previous effort Sexy Baby quite literally changed the way I saw media images of young women, and it’ll be difficult to look at any of this stuff the same way either. As Kendall, boyfriend of one of the film’s subjects, notes, “Every time I see a porno now, I’m like, that’s someone’s girlfriend. That’s someone’s daughter.”

Susan Elizabeth Shepard, Vice

While porn performer may be the only legal occupation where sexual boundaries are so blatantly up for negotiation, it’s not the only place where workers can get treated unfairly. It’s just the only place where the industry itself, rather than its practices, is subject to condemnation. Porn performers need the space to talk about bad experiences, however they describe them, without having them used as evidence against their entire business.Hot Girls Wanted reinforces tired sexual stereotypes that harm all women, while ignoring the real work concerns specific to porn performers. In its moral simplicity and willingness to exploit its subjects, it ends up resembling the genre it aims to expose.

Jordan Hoffman, Guardian

“Success” cases like the Duke University porn star and self-described feminist Belle Knox are derided. The one gal in the low-rent Miami home that seems to have her head on straight (she’s created an on-screen “character” and reads Frank McCourt during her free time) doesn’t get much of the directors’ focus. She doesn’t really fit the movie’s alarmist agenda, which is rife with intertitles of terrifying statistics and absurd montages of the Kardashians and Justin Bieber, suggesting that our modern culture has created this market of sexual exploitation out of whole cloth. There’s also the wretched Bon Iver-style music dripping all over this film, such as when one of our gals is out hunting with her father, who doesn’t know what she’s doing down in Miami.

There are occasional, vérité-style glimpses of what this film would be like in the hands of less pamphleteering film-makers. These moments are quite touching, lacking the abrasive bombast that mars the rest of the picture. The increasing acceptance of pornography in our culture is an important topic, and no one would deny that the industry is built on exploitation. Were I to advertise on Craigslist, I’d write Better Filmmakers Wanted.

Kenneth R. Morefield, Christianity Today

For reasons I have a hard time articulating even to myself, Hot Girls Wanted left me more irritated than outraged, more morose than sad. I’ve had two experiences analogous to what I felt watching it. The first was stumbling across Donald Rumbelow’s Jack the Ripper: The Complete Casebook, which contained autopsy figures of the serial killer’s historical victims. Being reminded that they were actual people who actually died made watching movies about them seem . . . indecent.

It’s easy enough to say, “don’t watch porn,” and while that may be a legitimate response to an unblinking description of what porn actually is and does, it hardly seems sufficient.

Mike Hale, New York Times

There’s an interesting story about class and the American economy in “Hot Girls Wanted,” even if it’s not the story the filmmakers want to focus on: how the women who answer “must be 18” Craigslist ads say they prefer what they’re doing, at least at first, to the dead-end jobs available in their hometowns. As Rachel, an 18-year-old from Oswego, Ill., says in her Miami living room after a shoot: “Are you kidding me? I made $900 in five hours. I’m going to go home and make $8.25 an hour? No. No no no no.”

This Article is related to: Reviews and tagged , ,