“This is voyeurism and exploitation. You waited and you photographed people at their most vulnerable.”Anne
A bleak and provocative debut feature from writer/director John Fraser, Choir Girl follows a lonely photographer who becomes fixated on an underage sex worker, torn between the notion of rescuing her and the opportunity she provides to elevate his work. Marketing comparisons with Joker are far too generous, with nothing like the same societal lens or unreliable perspective. However, Peter Flaherty does provide a multifaceted performance as Eugene, who is not merely a sad sack or voyeur, but is driven to show people the reality of his neighbourhood (“Where I come from this happens every day”), with resentment at his situation and desire for fame seething beneath the surface. A clunky script filled with contrivance leaves little way for the audience to connect with these characters, further hindered by mixed supporting performances. Fraser seems sincere in his examination of the extent to which artistic merit and commercialisation can be separated from exploitation of subjects, yet Choir Girl ultimately finds itself trapped within the very issue it seeks to explore — although its black and white photography seeks to derive an air of distance and sophistication rather than titilation, it still indulges in its seedier themes and its ugly climax feels unearned. Fraser may have hoped to achieve the meaningful culmination of a Taxi Driver or Joker, but instead it feels grimly exploitative and leaves a bad aftertaste. He succeeded in provoking a reaction, but not in a way I can recommend.