Cuties, by Cameron J. Czaja

If you haven’t heard of the film Cuties, then God bless you. The reason I say this is because it’s probably one of the most controversial films released at this time, and for good reason. To give you a quick premise of the film, it’s about a bunch of preteen girls that get involved in a dance competition that involves twerking and inappropriate dance moves. The original Netflix poster depicted the young preteen girls in inappropriate positions, which caused a major backlash on the internet to where they dropped it entirely and used the original poster instead. Once the movie was released, however, the controversy didn’t stop. People were then not only boycotting the film but were also threatening to cancel their Netflix subscriptions because of the release. This prompted me to watch the film for myself because, one, I wanted to see if it was worth the controversy and, two, I feel like the people who are complaining the most had not seen the film. If there’s one thing I take pride in when reviewing a film, it’s giving it a chance by watching it entirely and writing a fair review no matter how bad it might be. Is this worth canceling your Netflix subscription? Let’s find out and this review will contain spoilers.

In Cuties, a French film, we follow Amy (Fathia Youssouf), an eleven year old girl from Senegal who immigrated to a neighborhood in Paris with her mother (Maïmouna Gueye), her two younger siblings, and her father soon joining them. Amy also comes from a strict, conservative Muslim family that allows polygamy, which puts a lot of stress on Amy and her mother. This was shown when Amy’s mother got a call from her father saying that he’ll be in France soon with another woman that he’ll soon marry. One day Amy meets one of her neighbors, Angelica (Médina El Aidi-Azouni), in the apartment laundry room twerking and dancing inappropriately, which catches Amy’s attention. She later finds out that her neighbor also goes to the same school and she’s part of a dance clique called the Cuties where they dance to what they find on the internet. Amy becomes interested in this group and starts dancing like them, and from there she soon starts to stray from her conservative culture. It also doesn’t help that she steals a phone soon after she moves in and she starts becoming addicted to social media and all the trappings in it, including the inappropriate dances via video.

I think it comes as no surprise me saying this, but Cuties is not a movie I would recommend at all. It’s inappropriate and very uncomfortable to watch. However, and hear me out, I completely understand why this film got made and the importance of it. While this may sound like I’m defending the film, it’s something that I noticed and despite all that it doesn’t justify everything else in the film which I’ll go into more.

While I was looking up Cuties, I learned that this was somewhat inspired by the first time director Maïmouna Doucouré’s life growing up. With that inspiration she wanted to make the movie to not only show what her life was like growing up, but to make a statement on hyper-sexualization of women and the exposure to young girls. It’s something that we don’t want to talk about but unfortunately it’s present in not only our culture but in different areas of the world overall as shown in the film. In theory this film would’ve been more effective, but I felt like it focused more on the inappropriate content rather than raising awareness of hyper-sexualization itself. Sure, it’s present, with one scene in particular involving a dance competition with the Cuties dancing inappropriately and the audience being appalled by it, but the crude dancing and the sexual vibe was too much to bear.

I guess you could say that Cuties is a cautionary tale about how one might become once they drift away from their religion, which is something I’ve seen in the past with my own Catholic faith. Perhaps it would be more effective if the main protagonist was someone that came from my Christian faith and had a better ending, but who knows? 

In the past I’ve enjoyed and reviewed films with a cautionary message, and Cuties could’ve been another one, but it’s not. Aside from the sexual nature of the film, another reason why I don’t like Cuties is the unlikable characters and the lack of repercussions from them. There isn’t a single character in the film with which I sympathized nor cared for, and the most unlikable person in it is the main character Amy. Normally I wouldn’t mind an unlikable character as long as they are either developed into a better character or face some consequences that allow them to become a really likable person. While Amy at the end does learn from her mistakes, she does some terrible things in the film that didn’t make me feel anything for her other than disgust. As mentioned earlier, she steals her phone, steals money from her mom‘s purse, lies to her brother, disobeys her family when given the chance, assaults her classmates on multiple occasions, and pushes a girl into a river in order to take her place in a dance competition. Amy does come to her senses in the middle of the competition, but after that film soon ends with her with no consequences from her actions. This was extremely bothersome for me because I was hoping for a better conclusion to her character arc.

So to answer the question I said earlier, no, Cuties is not worth canceling your Netflix subscription. It’s not worth your time. The only people I would ever recommend this film to are parents of young girls just so they can be informed of the dangers of social media. From there they could learn to be a better family than Amy‘s and grow closer to their faith rather than move away from it. Hopefully this review is somewhat helpful to some curious to know if this was the worst thing ever. If there was any other film that involved dancing that I would rather watch than Cuties it was Hustlers, and if you’ve read my review for that film you know how I feel about it.

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