Sunday, September 23, 2012

Movie with Abe: About Cherry

About Cherry
Directed by Stephen Elliott
Released September 21, 2012

This drama is about more than just Cherry, but she’s certainly its center, and it’s a fitting title to describe the line of work in which she finds herself. Eighteen-year-old Angelina (Ashley Hinshaw) heads to San Francisco with her wiling friend Andrew (Dev Patel) in order to make money and soon ends up moonlighting at a strip club while she spends most of her time starring in pornography, using the name Cherry for her roles. It’s a film about the lives Angelina/Cherry impacts, one that starts out slowly but eases into a deeply intense, serious relationship drama with a handful of great performances.

What’s interesting about this film is that, though Cherry dives into a world with which she’s entirely unfamiliar and even more naively hopeful, she isn’t treated to a rude awakening where something horrible happens and she realizes she’s on the wrong track. Instead, her career and success show her the true nature of other people, and the film includes several intense scenes in which characters demonstrate their ugly and selfish traits in the most unkind manner. While some may argue that Cherry’s continued happiness and pleasant experience in such an industry is unrealistic, it’s refreshing to see this story told differently, emphasizing other fallibilities of growing up too quickly.

The film’s subject matter presents the opportunity for excellent performances, and its actors certainly deliver. James Franco is effective as a wealthy lawyer who takes a strong but healthy interest in his latest waitress, Patel is endearing as her best friend who is clearly in love with her, and Lili Taylor dives in fully to play Angelina’s broken-down mom. Hinshaw, who has few film credits to her name, is astonishing as Angelina, wearing a sweet smile on her face as she wades into unfamiliar waters and transitioning from living one life to a double life. She’s matched well by Heather Graham, who shines as actress Margaret not only in her passionate pornography video narrations, where the intensity of her connection to her job is revealed, but also in the way that she becomes fascinated, like everyone else, with Cherry. Diane Farr is also terrific as Margaret’s high-powered attorney girlfriend, Jillian, who is less than impressed by Margaret’s pride in her line of work.

“About Cherry” is a contemplative look at one young woman’s immersion in an industry where her body is her best asset, far more complex and thoughtful than such a subject could prove. It’s at its very best when characters are revealing their true selves and airing all of their emotions and frustrations. Its ultimate direction isn’t quite as clear, with an unhurried start and some important gaps in its timeline, but the impact of the individual scenes make up for it, as well as sterling cinematography that makes the story feel even more intoxicating. Hinshaw and Graham’s spectacular performances help to make this an extremely memorable entry in the cinematic commentary on the business of pornography.


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