Robin Bain’s highly provocative new film, Girl Lost: A Hollywood Story, takes an unyieldingly candid look at the dark underbelly of “La La Land”. The subculture depicted in Bain’s drama appears to be a million miles away from the wealth, glamour, and fame that has been synonymous with the very word “Hollywood” for generations. That said, the original motivations for the first “lost girl” that we meet in this stunning movie is no different than what has driven millions of pretty young women to L.A. for decades: visions of that legendary Hollywood-style wealth, glamour, and fame. That first “lost girl” is Hope (the phenomenal Moxie Owens), a wide-eyed blonde teen who flees her neglectful father (Corey Shane Love) and his expecting girlfriend Beth (Dominique Swain) in hopes of becoming a model and actress. Dad’s unfatherly response is “It’s OK. Let her go…” Before you can say, “Hooray for Hollywood!”, Hope is living with her former babysitter Paige (Cody Renee Cameron) and seasoned exotic dancer/escort Destiny (Serena Maffucci). The two older women soon take on the roles of mentors and “cool” big sisters to the teen, offering Paige an early warning upon her arrival: “This town is filled with sick, perverted fucks.” Perhaps unsurprisingly for the audience, that advice turns out to be highly prophetic. But what is surprising for the audience are the eye-opening revelations later on the film about the forces behind Hope’s inevitable descent into non-consensual prostitution and pornography. In this case, the pop culture cliche of the gaudily dressed male pimp and his “ladies of the night” hanging out on the street corner has given way to the more current phenomenon of the web cam.
Hope, however, isn’t the only “lost girl” of the movie. We also meet “Baby Girl” (Psalms Salazar, who’s a revelation), a dark haired beauty of indeterminate ethnicity who’s a fiercely dedicated single mother of a young daughter (played by the delightful Leah Schaefer). After she loses her job at the strip club, Baby Girl resorts to whatever she can do to support her child– even if it means getting $200 for a visit from a “friend” while her daughter is watched by a kind, grandmotherly neighbor (Elizabeth Lamboy-Wilson). The paths of the four main characters cross when Paige and Destiny reach out to Baby Girl with promises of more “security” and… more money. Baby Girl soon finds herself in the same emotional bondage of sorts as the younger, more naive Paige: Opportunities become fewer, exploitation runs rampant, and emotional pain must be numbed by drugs or alcohol. But what happens when Baby Girl’s two worlds (single mother versus sex worker) cross each other?
Girl Lost: A Hollywood Story could have easily become another generic cautionary Hollywood story, or yet another case of the cinematic “Reinventing the Wheel” Case #669: Women who barter with their sexuality are headed on a one-way road to disappointment, exploitation, and even worse. But Robin Bain’s film stands out for many reasons. The movie is bolstered by its authentic backstory and equally authentic (as well as sharply filmed) Hollywood locations– neither of which is always pretty to see. The movie also excels with its unflinchingly frank look at the lives of its subjects. The women are the main characters in this story, and these characters are brilliantly fleshed out, thanks to Bain’s screenplay and the impressive, bold acting talents of the cast. Despite its no-holes-barred look at the lives of its characters, much symbolism lies below the surface. Hope and Destiny’s names turn out to be quite prophetic; in fact, when Hope changes her name at the end of the movie, the symbolism couldn’t be more clear. The male characters (Hope’s father, the strip club owners, the many “johns”, the male porn actors. etc…) are merely secondary figures. As both Hope and Baby Girl learn, however, both genders are sadly capable of opportunism and exploitation. If there’s a ray of California sunshine for these titular “lost girls”, it’s that they will continue to learn what it takes to survive the future– even if they’ve had to learn the hard way in the past.
Girl Lost: A Hollywood Story is now available for viewing from Breaking Glass Pictures. Visit here for more information.