American Courtesans Movie Review: More Case Study than Documentary

American Courtesans is a documentary by Kristen DiAngelo and James Johnson about the world of women who work as escorts in America. This documentary chronicles the lives of eleven women who have been or currently are working in the adult sex industry as escorts.

The film fell flat for me, but not because of the women or their stories. American Courtesans had a hard time holding my attention because it was mostly a “talking heads” doc without any extra narrative to help direct the stories, struggle, and triumphs of these women. Diangelo and Johnson could have done more with this documentary if Diangelo (who is one of the escorts whose story we hear) involved her own narrative more and explained why she wanted to tell her story and that of these other women. Their stories are compelling, but due to the way it is edited, there is very little humor or lightness at all and in turn casts these women in a stereotypical light for much of the film.

DiAngelo also did a disservice by making her story the most dramatic and traumatic of all of the interviews. It would seem that all of these women have some tough stories to tell, but DiAngleo’s life eclipses the other women’s lives quite a bit. It seemed that she was trying to blend into the film, but ended up being much more obvious than perhaps she intended.

The interviews with the clients and family members of these eleven women do add some change of pace, but it would have been better if they had not been introduced so late. It would have also been nice to find out how DiAngelo knew these other escorts and what her process was in making this film. That too could have lent itself to her including her personal narrative.

American Courtesans was not a bad documentary, just more of a case study and less of a documentary that pulled its audience in. These women definitely deserve to have their stories told; I just wish it had been a more well-rounded documentary.

American Courtesans is available nationwide July 12 on VOD and all major cable networks, as well as Amazon and iTunes.

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Darcy Staniforth

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