Editor’s Note: About Cherry opens tomorrow in limited release, and is already available on demand
Given its subject matter—the descent of a 19 year old woman into the adult film industry when she flees her fractured family life for the glamour of San Francisco—not to mention a writing credit for former pornographic actress Lorelei Lee, About Cherry seems poised to deliver an informed behind-the-curtains look at the workings of the porn world. What it gives us instead is a haphazard assembly of disjoint characters loosely strung together around a story vaguely rooted in the sex industry. For a film whose protagonist leaves her life behind her to become a porn star, About Cherry has almost nothing to do with pornography, neither mustering any insight into the business nor taking any stance as to its treatment of its employees.
The least to be expected of a film by the name of About Cherry is some degree of clarification as to who Cherry actually is, yet even in the establishment of their protagonist Lee and co-writer/director Stephen Elliot blindly stumble, no better suited to evincing her motivations in life than they are to making compelling drama of her story.
A wasted opportunity though the film’s inability to make any sort of incisive comment on the adult entertainment industry may render it, it needn’t necessarily preclude the telling of an interesting story about this woman’s life. The least to be expected of a film by the name of About Cherry is some degree of clarification as to who Cherry actually is, yet even in the establishment of their protagonist Lee and co-writer/director Stephen Elliot blindly stumble, no better suited to evincing her motivations in life than they are to making compelling drama of her story. Why this young woman flees the constricting tendrils of her damaged family is plain enough; less clear is why she so readily and gleefully gallops headlong into the world of adult entertainment. Cherry—or, to use her real name, Angelina—finds certain relief in the pleasant payday her new job affords her, but neither the script nor the limited range of Ashley Hinshaw in the role take us any deeper than the surface of this character.
The weight of an endless barrage of throwaway plot points makes short work of a film so light and hollow, the added burden of cursory characters ensuring a narrative so laden with needless excess that About Cherry never manages to move anywhere at all. Appearing intermittently to act entirely through goofy grins is James Franco, he a drug-addled suitor to Angelina whose function is as inconsistent and mysterious as his facial hair. Dev Patel, donning an impressive accent, is a fine presence as the childhood best friend and rent-necessitated bedfellow with underlying affections Angelina seems entirely blind to despite the fallacious blatancy of his adulation. Even the pair’s uncomfortably stereotypical gay roommate—whose veiled affections for Patel’s character offer yet another disposable distraction—recognises the spark of one-way attraction from across the hallway; how Angelina can’t do so from beneath their shared sheets is one of the more troubling of About Cherry’s collection of logical cavities.
Hinshaw’s chest is of more interest to the camera then her face, the voyeuristic thrill of observing this business taking precedence over all efforts to imbue it with any greater purpose.
The most baffling of the many extraneous plot additions is a romance between a director at Angelina’s studio and her businesswoman lover, the entire narrative arc of which is instantly foreseeable. Heather Graham and Dianne Farr fill the respective roles, talented actresses both who nonetheless here seem powerless to make anything of their parts, lumped as they are with a flow of clunky lines and one of the worst sex scenes of recent memory. It’s the most plainly bad sequence of the film, something of an achievement, and also the most succinctly expressive of About Cherry’s mismanaged tone; it makes to strive for serious drama when all it really seeks is smutty exploitation. Hinshaw’s chest is of more interest to the camera then her face, the voyeuristic thrill of observing this business taking precedence over all efforts to imbue it with any greater purpose.
As though not hampered enough in its narrative failings, About Cherry has little to redeem itself aesthetically, Elliot finding minimal success in translating his literary talents (he is first and foremost a novelist) to screen. His compositions are dull and forgettable, his management of an able cast inanimate. Much as it might dream of being something more, this is a film as airheaded and lewd-minded as it makes its protagonist seem to be. Elliot and Lee seem to aspire less toward a meaningful story than to seedy lasciviousness, a perfectly fine angle in itself, but not when dressed in such airs of pretension, such deceptions of character and theme.
[notification type=”star”]30/100 ~ AWFUL. About Cherry is a film as airheaded and lewd-minded as it makes its protagonist seem to be.[/notification]