Explaining the sex worker industry
is a touchy subject, since there’s so much more to it in the age of social media. But that’s a subject that never gets broached in About Cherry
, a first-time directorial effort from Stephen Elliot working off a script he co-wrote with adult film actress Lorelei Lee
. Based in part on Lee’s own life and upbringing in the industry, About Cherry
goes to great lengths to describe just how the entry into pornography is as simple as being referred to a temp agency and then being hired for your superior typing skills.
Angelina (Ashley Henshaw) lives in a broken home in a non-descript Los Angeles setting as her mother (Lily Tomlin) drinks herself to death her father barely keeps his anger in check after glasses of whiskey. After being coerced into posing for topless photos by her scummy guitarist boyfriend, she and her friend Andrew (Dev Patel
) decide to move to San Francisco on a whim and try their best at escaping their past. But while Andrew struggles with his feelings for Angelina--down to their new roommate assuming he’s gay since Angelina keeps insisting they’re not a couple--Angelina falls for a distant and coke-addicted lawyer Frances (James Franco
) before she discovers the sex industry. In the mean time, she’s scouted and coached by Margaret (Heather Graham
), a former performer turned director who is searching for talent and thinks Angelina has what it takes--as long as she transforms into her new role as Cherry.
The only moment of cliché that About Cherry deals with involves Angelina’s background as a kid that wants to find an escape from an abusive background. But Elliot’s direction is too streamlined to take that into consideration and instead we meet a girl who finds a medium that let’s her express herself, even if it is in porn. Except that ultimately becomes the lynchpin of what we’re waiting to have unfold. Angelina/Cherry’s career takes off and evolves from photoshoots to girl-on-girl and finally as she struggles with accepting a girl-on-guy scene that has Andrew almost standing beside himself with the girl he could never have, but instead gets relegated into the ultimate rendition of simply being a friend.
It’s hard to find a negative aspect with Cherry, as a lot of what’s shown is heavily influenced and shot at the Kink.com production company’s facilities. About Cherry
is accidentally one of the better behind-the-scenes documentaries about the modern porn industry, with adjustments for dramatic elements like Angelina’s mother showing up randomly or how to shoehorn James Franco playing a beta-version of his Spring Breakers
caricature into the San Francisco scene. Franco’s sort of an anomaly in the film, but plays off Henshaw’s concept of a “small-town girl,” but even that’s strange to see from a supposedly street-smart girl from Los Angeles.
Ultimately that’s all we’re getting with the story of Cherry as she rises through the ranks, deals in back-room politics with her director and ultimate confident. Even Graham seems shaky in the role, which must have brought up the obvious parallels to Roller Girl in Boogie Nights. Only here she’s a stronger, hardened veteran of the adult video trade that engages in one of the more surprising moments of on-camera sex--which almost seems like a gotcha gag instead of poignant moment showcasing how “evil” the industry is. If anything, About Cherry demystifies porn by showing the simplicity of becoming a performer can be, which is something it should’ve focused on instead of relying on banal side-stories about friend-zoned guys and James Franco as “Franco.”