PVT Chat [Fantasia Fest]

Modern day addictions are an interesting topic of a film. If someone had a gambling or sex addiction, that person would have to get dressed and go to a casino, or a back-room poker game. Or find other variations of it. And they’d have to find an escort. All these things where sometimes to make those decisions aren’t as easy as clicking a button. In PVT Chat, we’re reminded how far we’ve come. With online poker hands, and private sex chat rooms (and even OnlyFans), it’s easy for someone to input their credit card number and just click subscribe from the comfort of their own bedroom.

PVT Chat stars Peter Vack (Mozart in the Jungle, Love Life) as Jack, a man living in an apartment who makes his money by playing online poker, and then loses his money to sex workers. Sometimes, it’s at an actual massage parlour, but only based on the outcome of the coin he flips. Other times, it’s at home, as he speaks to women online as they blow smoke and pretend to turn off their cigarettes on his tongue.

Soon Jack finds a model that he slowly falls for – or becomes obsessed, the film never decides which side of the spectrum he truly ends up on – and he constantly checks and wait for Scarlet (Uncut Gems’ Julia Fox) to go online, so he can spend more of his time (and money) on her.

The film takes place in New York, and it’s about the dirtiness that can be associated with it, and New York. And by casting Julia right after Uncut Gems (not to mention also having Buddy Duress [Good Time]), it makes the film feel like it could be the basis of a Safdie brothers film. It doesn’t make me as anxious as either of the films the two actors came from, but it has the ability to do so.

I think watching PVT Chat online is a perfect place to see the film. Not to say I didn’t wish to see it in the theatre, but it brings an extra level to the connections that are made in the film. As the film progresses, there’s a sweetness and tenderness between Scarlet and Jack, the two characters who don’t meet face-to-face for some time. I’ve spent a lot of time in high school on music forums, and I’ve been on the Discord server for Fantasia since before the festival began, and I’ve made a few connections of people I’d love to have the opportunity to meet in the future. I don’t think I would have approached people if I went to the festival in person, but next year, when I try to attend (if there is an in-person compartment), I’ll have people to meet and hang out with.

Ben Hozie who directs the film excellently doesn’t seem to give an answer on whether how much of a problem it may be to have easier access to your vices, but it makes a valid argument that it really depends on the person and what they have choose to do with that access. That defines you more than your flaws.