starring Jessica Barden, Hayley Law, Brett Dier, Camila Mendes
written and directed by Carly Stone
by Alice Stoehr Sex columnist Carrie Bradshaw wakes up in a hotel room after a fling with a Frenchman to find a thousand dollars on the nightstand. This is midway through "The Power of Female Sex," episode five of HBO's "Sex and the City". She summons her friends, sensualist Samantha and hard-headed Miranda, to ask them, "What exactly about me screams 'whore'?" Samantha counsels keeping the money; Miranda tosses around the word "hooker"; and Carrie weighs the gesture as either "an incredible compliment or an incredible insult." The episode has little to say about sex work and the attendant stigma beyond articulating some knee-jerk squeamishness. Twenty years have passed since then in the realms of feminism and pop culture. Twenty years, yet here's The New Romantic, a romcom with the same level of nuance on the subject of sex for money. Its heroine is Blake (Jessica Barden), a college senior who writes about her sparse sex life for the school paper. With the editor poised to take her column away, she tries to spice it up by interviewing a local "sugar baby"--a young woman who barters dates for luxury. It's not long before Blake herself is sipping wine opposite Ian (Timm Sharp), a well-off professor twice her age. Nor is it long before she, as a Nora Ephron devotee, starts to worry she might be sacrificing romance for the sake of journalistic material.