Buy It Now Review

Buy It Now is a pseudo documentary that follows sixteen year old Chelsea Magan (Logan) after she decides to sell her virginity on eBay, split into two half-hour sections entitled Documentary and Narrative.

The conceit of Documentary is that Chelsea approached a documentary filmmaker to assemble something from her many hours of home video footage. We see the life of a fairly typical teenage girl, her room full of pictures and posters of her idols. She talks about the lack of interest in her life that her parents show and her lack of connection with them, as well as therapy, drugs and her habit of cutting herself.

She places an advert on eBay to sell her virginity to the highest bidder, with an option to “buy it now” for $1500. She views it as just something to be getting over with and figures she may as well earn some money at the same time. This is all inter-cut with her going to the hotel to meet the buyer, a man named Peter who puts $1000 into her account and will deposit another $1000 after “delivery”. The act itself is not shown with the exception of a little audio, but that makes it all the more disturbing.

Narrative is presented as a straight dramatic account of more or less the same events, and covers a lot of the same situations, showing Chelsea arguing with her parents and hanging with her friends. But it also shows stuff we didn’t see first time round, like how Chelsea was about to leave the hotel room just before Peter (who turns out to be a married older guy) arrives.

There’s no denying the disturbing nature of Buy It Now and the grim picture of American teen life that it exposes. As a portrait of a clearly messed up young girl, it’s sobering stuff, even if it’s nothing that Larry Clark hasn’t shown us countless times before. But really, what’s the point? Much like Clark’s work, it functions as shock value without insight. Yes, many kids take drugs, many kids have underperforming parents, many kids are sexually active at too young an age. We know this, and don’t really need to be reminded of the fact in such a dull and uninvolving way.

It’s a good skill to make acting look like documentary footage and for the most part the actors here succeed. But Logan’s performance weakens the more depressed Chelsea is shown to be, and the more it looks like she’s acting. Normal conversations appear much more natural and could often pass for the real thing. Ironically, in the dramatised narrative section, the acting is even less convincing, although this half is certainly the most revealing.

Chelsea gives far more of herself in the narrative than she does in the documentary, including why she cuts herself. She also poses the questions that she should have been asking first time round. What if the guy is a weirdo? What if he turns violent? And it contains the most apposite piece of dialogue in the entire movie when her mother says to her, “If something’s wrong you should really talk to your therapist.”

Filmed on digital video, the full frame transfer is adequate to display the limited scenarios that the film presents. Background objects in Chelsea’s room are well focussed and there are no artefacts or grain to speak of. Flesh tones are fine, although there is some slight ringing in close ups. Given that it’s supposed to be shot on home video, it’s not too bad. Audio wise, there’s also not very much to report. Apart from one scene outside the hotel where there’s some traffic noise, there’s very little to the soundtrack other than dialogue, but it’s strong enough and never harsh or tinny.

No extras are included.

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