Like nannies and surrogate mothers, the Internet has been an often villainized target of Lifetime's. Their The ____ He/She Met Online series has basically been one cautionary tale after another about how people's lives are ruined by the horrors of online dating and venturing into the vast world of the web.
As you can guess from the title, Web Cam Girls (which was originally given the far less sensational title Lost Girls) centers around the world of women stripping and talking dirty for paying strangers online. Specifically, it revolves around high school student Carolyn (Lorynn York), a girl whose perpetually drunk father has driven her to be desperate to escape her meager life. To earn money for that, Carolyn began working for a cam girl website, for which she was paid money by online strangers to do sexual acts — a profession her cousin Alex (Sedona Legge) is strongly opposed against.
But then, soon after Carolyn agreed to meet with a mysterious client willing to pay a fortune to see the teenager in person, Carolyn mysteriously disappears and Alex is certain something happened to her. With the police having little to go on, Alex works to unravel the mystery of the unknown client (who goes by the extremely sleazy username "Big Daddy") to rescue her cousin before it's too late.
A big plus in Web Cam Girls' favor is that, for the most part, neither the internet or Carolyn is demonized too strongly. While Carolyn's decisions are repeatedly hailed as reckless and dangerous by Alex, never once is she portrayed as having been at fault for her own kidnapping. When the police are given the case, rather than dragging their feet due to Carolyn's sordid activities, they reassure Alex and company as best as they can and promise to work to find the missing girl. Rather than vilifying the victims and engaging in any, Web Cam Girls centers the blame solely on the true perpetrator.
The major complaint I have with the plot of Web Cam Girls is that it tips its hand too early; the person responsible for Carolyn's disappearance is revealed with far too much time left to go, taking away much of the suspense the movie had going for it. Everyone's performances are spot on (Legge, in particular, gives a fiercely authentic performance), but they're sadly stranded for most of the movie in a script that drags out for much longer than it needs to. The climax, while powerful and thrilling in its' own right, could've been much stronger had the writers cut down on the unnecessary excess of rising action.
As for characters, Lifetime once again does great work. Every character, no matter how small, feels authentic and necessary for the story. Even Carolyn's drunkard father (who I spent most of the movie bashing on Twitter) ended up becoming a well-rounded character who shows that beneath his rough exterior, he truly does care for his daughter. A character with surprising depth is Carolyn's stripper mentor, Nikki, whose initial indifference to the young teen's vanishing makes way to real concern. With Lifetime's past history of unnecessarily one-dimensional characters, seeing them adding different facets to the cast of Web Cam Girls is a refreshing change.
Sadly, the only character not given further depth is arguably the most important: the film's antagonist (whose identity I will keep hidden). One scene with the villain's family opens up the opportunity to give him humanizing traits that could come into play in the climax. But this opportunity is instead ignored in favor of having our film's antagonist portrayed as a cookie cutter misogynist.
Regardless of its' flaws, Web Cam Girls is a refreshing end-of-the-year treat for Lifetime viewers (such as myself) who have been missing Lifetime's usual brand of fun drama and thrills. This will be the perfect film for Lifetime to use for a marathon of their "The Evils of the World Wide Web" features.
Score: 7.5 out of 10 black ball gags.