Voyeur

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Voyeur Movie Poster Image
Offbeat, mature docu has lots of sex, language.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 95 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Points out the importance of fact-checking when publishing information. 

Positive Role Models & Representations
Violence

Reference to a murder.

Sex

Sexual voyeurism is the film's topic. Many re-created, brief sexual scenes are shown through louvers; more suggestion and bare backs than actual sex, with some obscured movement. Voice-over describes more than is visible. Old photos show bare breasts, frontal nudity, naked groups of people in sexual setting.

Language

Obscenities and swearing: "f--k," "bastard," "son of a bitch," "goddamn," "Jesus," "hell," "pissed off," "bulls--t." Multiple references to masturbation, oral sex, dildos, and perversions (including bestiality). 

Consumerism

Diet Mug Root Beer, Pepsi.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Smoking, rare shot of alcohol consumption in social setting. Discussion of drug dealer's behavior.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Voyeur is a documentary ostensibly about a motel owner who secretly spied on his guests through an "observation platform" for more than 30 years. Of course, that's part of the story. But the compelling relationship between that motel owner and the well-known journalist he approached to write his story, and the ultimate revelations about that story, are really at the heart of the movie. Myles Kane and Josh Koury, the filmmakers, spend significant time with their two subjects, following them as they prepare a lengthy article for The New Yorker Magazine, and then as they prepare a book for publication. Sexual references, photographs with nudity, and re-creations of sexual acts (nothing explicit here) as seen through the louvers in the ceiling of the motel, are prominently featured, as are discussions about masturbation, oral sex, and some unusual sexual activity. Profanity is frequent (e.g., "f--k," "bulls--t," "bastard," "blow job"). Characters smoke and occasionally drink. Not for kids.

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What's the story?

Initially, VOYEUR spotlights Gerald Foos, the longtime owner of the Manor House Motel in Aurora, Colorado, as he proudly describes himself as a "researcher" with reams of valuable written notes. His "research" was conducted by installing an observation platform in the roof of his motel in the late 1960s and watching his unsuspecting guests. Foos approaches notable journalist Gay Talese in 1980, telling the writer that he doesn't want to die leaving all he discovered lost forever. As he describes it, "think sexual circus every night of the week." Talese encourages him, keenly aware of the story's possibilities. The two work together through publication of a New Yorker article and a published book in 2016. Talese and Foos seem on the verge of chart-busting success. However, after a series of bizarre discoveries and setbacks, they find themselves embroiled in controversy, chaos, and anger.

Is it any good?

Filled with surprises, twists, and a discerning look at the growing needs and desperation of its two subjects, the film is a fascinating character study appropriate only for mature audiences. Talese, a journalist of some celebrity and repute, is looking for the next "big thing" when he's tagged by Foos, a man whose appetites and exaggerations know no bounds. In Voyeur, Talese invests; Foos doesn't disappoint. At least, not for 30 years. Kane and Koury must have thought themselves the two luckiest filmmakers alive as their second full-length documentary effort went in directions they never could have anticipated. Voyeur is one of those outrageous movies you can't stop watching. It's an intriguing look at a bizarre outpost on the American frontier -- 20th century Colorado-style.

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the fact that documentaries are meant to entertain, inform, inspire, and/or persuade. Which category(s) would best describe Voyeur? How do you and your family make the decision to watch a documentary?

  • Did you notice the similarities between the two subjects of this movie, Gay Talese and Gerald Foos? Which scenes point out those similarities (e.g., their highly organized research offices)? Do you think the filmmakers were specifically trying to show that connection?

  • Fact-checking is an important element of publication in any medium. What did you learn about fact-checking in this film?  Was Talese a "responsible" fact-checker, or did he rely on the publishers to do his work? 

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