The quite often sexism laced axiom “Pimpin’ aint’t easy” might not be technically incorrect, but it assuredly slights the men and women on the other side of the statement that do all the actual heavy lifting. In the documentary Meet the Fokkens the subjects are two women who have been their own bosses (more or less) in the Amsterdam sex trade, but what makes their story of these feisty women making it on their own all the more special is that they are 69 year old identical twins that have been in the game for over 40 years.
Directors Gabrielle Provaas and Rob Schroder talk with and take a fly on the wall look at the lives of Louise and Martine Fokken in this thoughtful, but ultimately lightweight documentary that runs just barely over 70 minutes, but never really goes far enough into the details of its subjects to be truly satisfying when the material itself hints at a stronger story than the one ultimately being told.
Still in touch despite one of them retiring recently due to complications from arthritis, Louise and Martine were instrumental in founding a union of sorts for sex trade workers after getting sickened by seeing and enduring abuse by middlemen and clients alike. That would be more than enough to sustain its own film, but Louise and Martine are magnetic characters in their personal lives, as well. Louise might not be working anymore, but she’s still trying to take stock of her life and catch up after years of abuse forced her into her particular line of work, and only now has she been able to reconnect with the daughter that ended up growing up in foster care. Martine has a religious streak and quite simply can’t stop working because a state pension would never be able to support her. It’s the only life they have known, and there’s no benefits package for their profession.
With such interesting characters that have clearly lived such fruitful lives, it’s kind of maddening that Provass and Schroder rely so heavily on personal anecdotes and titillation to sell their film. While watching the sisters talk shit about the new kids on the block with their damned fake wigs and inability to speak Dutch and seeing Martine dressed in leather while whipping an elderly man’s balls certainly elicits a few chuckles, it too often feels like the film is unsure of what it wants to be. Scenes where the women are allowed to speak for themselves are far more emotionally and intellectually stimulating than the filler around it, and in a film this short, there’s no denying that more of the actual stories of these two would have been appreciated. It’s pretty telling that the most notable accomplishment in their careers comes just past the halfway point of the film as its starting to wrap up. We observed some chuckle worthy stuff before that and got to know these characters slightly, but it feels all downhill by that point. Interesting people, but not a terribly interesting movie.