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About Cherry

Year: 2012
Production Co: Enderby Entertainment
Director: Stephen Elliott
Writer: Stephen Elliott/Lorelei Lee
Cast: Ashley Hinshaw, Dev Patel, James Franco, Lili Taylor, Heather Graham
Spoiler
Spoiler!

You don't see many movies where you dislike the lead character so much for not getting comeuppance for their behaviour. As such, About Cherry is a watchable but ultimately unsatisfying film – but that might say more about how Hollywood has primed us to expect happy, just endings rather than the movie itself.

Maybe it's only watchable if you like looking at a beautiful young girl get undressed or in the throes of lovemaking. Other than that it's a fairly uninvolving drama about her path into prostitution. I say 'path' rather than 'descent' because it's when the young and beautiful Angelina (Henshaw) escapes her home life (sexually abusive father, disinterested mother) that things start to calm down even as she becomes a porn actress.

She runs away to San Francisco with the friend Andrew (Patel), who's in love with her and is either too cowardly to say so or she's too stupid to realise – and that's his only reason for being there.

She takes a job in a strip club where she meets the rich brat who will become her boyfriend (Franco) and somewhat inevitably finds her way into performing for the camera in the studio of porn director Margaret (Graham), who's as bewitched by her as her growing online fanbase.

Instead of dosshouses, back-alley blowjobs and crack addiction, Angelina's trip into porn takes place amid funky inner-city apartments, happy people and high-powered parties. Some will complain that About Cherry sugarcoats the road many young women make into the industry but what conservatives don't want to admit is that there's such a thing as 'clean' porn, where studios are overseen by professionals managing a business and performers show up for work like baristas in a coffee shop and collect their cheque to finance studies or some other lifestyle.

Relationships aren't easy for anyone, of course, and being a porn performer would make it exponentially harder, which is what James Franco as Francis is doing there.

But it's in the final few scenes where the film leaves a bad taste in your mouth (no pun intended). Catching Andrew jerking off to videos of her online, Angelina reacts with anger and something that might be shame, a completely unfair response after he's held an anonymous candle to her for so long.

What happens next offers no resolution or closure. Angelina has also thrown director Margaret's life into turmoil and even she's turned her own circumstances upside down there's no Hollywood finish for her either.

In fact it might be the point writer/director Elliott is making – we want to believe porn has consequences whether you consume it or perform in it, but there are none here besides a few broken friendships.

Of course, I might be reading that completely wrong and he's making a very visceral statement that abuse will drive many a young woman into the economic meat grinder of the porn industry. If that's the case, it might as well have been about Angelina moving to San Francisco to be a hairdresser because if anything, porn frees her from her circumstances.

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