An artist and a sex worker fall for each other in “ToY”

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Despite its playful name, ToY is not the lesbian version of Pretty Woman. There are, however, some similarities–namely two attractive leads, an age difference and, oh yeah, a sex worker and a client falling for each other.

But this is no romantic comedy.

It couldn’t be when on one end you have Chloe (Briana Evigan), a cokehead photographer whose inherited her mom’s Huntington disease and wealth, and on the other, you have Kat (Kerry Norton), an aging English sex worker who owes the wrong kind of people money. At least we have the calm before the storm. Well, more like various moments of calm before several shitstorms.

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How did these two kids even meet? They live in LA, so art. Chloe’s working on a piece that focuses on sex workers (including trans, gay and underage subjects) and that inevitably brings Kat into her world. Mind you, it’s the booze and drug-filled world of a spoiled rich girl, but Kat’s seen worse.

In defense of Chloe, I do have to point out that this is a young woman whose mother has killed herself, who suffers from her mother’s disease, who has frequent flashbacks about her mother and who has been kicked off her mother’s charitable foundation because of her substance abuse problems. But she’s also rude and entitled at times, making for not the most sympathetic of characters.

No matter, because Kat won’t take her shit. The first thing she does upon meeting her is light up a smoke, despite Chloe’s protests. She also insists on answering her questions on her own terms and accuses a frustrated Chloe of asking all the wrong ones. There’s no clear attraction between the two yet, but there’s definitely some intrigue.

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We do, by the way, see Kat at work and during exchanges with her pimp, who’s not the worst guy. But he does constantly remind her that her client base is drying up because of her age (44) and that she owes a not so nice someone money. On the upside, he also informs her that Chloe’s been asking for her. Not that she can remember her. Really now, is it the drugs, or does she have that many female clients?

In any case, she agrees to go over. During their second visit together, Chloe has Kat pose nude (for more money). During the somewhat awkward shoot, Kat talks about her start in the business, i.e. doing it to get out of a debt and then just continuing with it when she realized it was easy money.

Later, Chloe continues her “research” into Kat at a bar, where Kat picks up a new client in front of her. Oddly, Chloe asks if she can go with her. Kat agrees to a next time for, of course, more money.

Next time comes soon. Hiding in a hotel bathroom, Chloe snorts coke while Kat and a client go at it. A video camera films it all without his knowledge and Chloe is eager to get a look.

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And then finally at around the 30-minute mark we see an obvious sign of attraction: Chloe masturbating to footage of Kat, alone, taking a shower. What to make of that and her heavy breathing? Is it sexy? Voyeuristic? Both? When Kat catches her, she certainly doesn’t seem repulsed. “You need some help with that?” she asks, smirking. An embarrassed Chloe says “No,” but her lingering look as Kat walks away says otherwise.

But outside of this bubble they’ve created, Kat’s money problems persist. She asks Chloe for a week’s advance payment, who agrees without questions. The research project continues, with Kat taking Chloe to a gun range and to a BDSM performance venue she used to work at.

That last stop must have done something for Chloe, because later that night when Kat wakes up from their innocent sleepover, she looks for and finds Chloe taking nude photos of herself. She asks to see them, and after a bit of show and tell she leans in for a kiss. After a little surprise from Chloe, she pulls the camera away and continues to kiss a now very willing participant.

As far as sex scenes go, this one was far too short and darkly lit for my liking. Admittedly, though, it was sexy. And it happens more than once, so there’s that.

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It’s actually during one of those occasions that Chloe brings up the scar she noticed on Kat’s stomach. Kat says it was an accident and offers nothing more. It’s an obvious lie.

Not deterred, Chloe invites Kat, who’s now living with her, to be her date for the gala being thrown in her mother’s honor. If you were wondering, she absolutely does want people to think she’s dating a sex worker. For her part, Kat’s more than happy to play along.

It’s all going so well, including making time for a hot makeout session, until the drugs Chloe takes at the party kick in. Being in the same house where her mother passed away is too much for her. She ends up causing a big scene and accusing Kat of trying to reel in a new client. Over their time together, Chloe has become obsessed with the idea of Kat leaving her. Now she beats her to the punch: she tells her to move out.

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That decision has heavy consequences for the both of them, though neither is aware of how the other will suffer. Chloe hasn’t told Kat about the disease and how it’s progressed, and Kat hasn’t told Chloe about just how much money she owes and to whom.

Undoubtedly dark at times, I still wouldn’t want to overlook the chemistry these two have together. It’s not just sexual either. Before the shit hit the fan, they had actually gotten to a point where they were pretty cute. But indeed that’s tempered by the power dynamics at play here, which Chloe isn’t wholly aware of and Kat at times relies needlessly on.

An interesting watch overall, director Patrick Chapman would nonetheless have done well to cut back on a number of artsy interviews used throughout the film and give us instead more of a flushed out ending. But in any case, Evigan and Norton’s performances more than make this one worth your time.

ToY is available for download and streaming on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and other video-on-demand services. Visit the movie’s website to find out more.

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