Movie Review: About Cherry
Length: 102 minutes
Release Date: September 21, 2012
Directed by: Stephen Elliott
Stars: 3 out of 5
Sometimes, finding a career that you are passionate about can be difficult, and many people only discover their true calling after years of failure. In "About Cherry," Angelina (Ashley Hinshaw) has found her calling at age 18 and slowly slips into a career that she loves, of her own free will. However, her career is in an industry that does not have the best reputation. In fact, the very people who are supposed to support her end up walking out. Meanwhile, Angelina morphs into a sex industry goddess, the adult movie actress named Cherry.
As the title "About Cherry" suggests, the film is about the 18-year old girl trying to find her way in life after getting a bum rap at home. She lives with a loving mother (Lili Taylor) whose alcohol problem is too overwhelming to allow her to notice the predator after her daughters. Angelina sleeps with her sister at night for their mutual protection. This seems like a recipe for a tragic tale, but "About Cherry" is not that. Angelina is approached by her sleazy boyfriend to start taking sexual photos for money. She loves it, and wanting more, the girl dumps her boyfriend, drops out of school, and heads to San Francisco with her best friend (Dev Patel).
In a darker film, Angelina would end up in a career as a stripper as a cautionary tale. However, her decision to shed her clothing for money feeds a desire to showcase her sexuality. The young dancer thrives, meeting a client (James Franco) who becomes her new boyfriend. She also meets a retired porn star who now directs adult films. Margaret the director, played by Heather Graham, sees something in Angelina that she can identify with. Soon, Angelina the dancer becomes Cherry, an adult film star who loves her work on camera. She progresses in her career, happily throughout, from the soft-core porn to the more provocative films.
As Cherry emerges, the support system that the actress has built withers away. No one likes her idea of a career in the sex industry, and everyone thinks she is getting taken advantage of. However, Cherry is in complete control. Despite the naysaying of her boyfriend, best friend, and mother, Angelina embraces Cherry. Remember, the name of the film is "About Cherry." Even Angelina realizes that the decision to follow her passion into the porn film world is about her alone.
The positivity of the film is surprising. This is not the natural progression of a movie that begins with a teen dropout and runaway. The mastermind behind the twist to the film is Lorelei Lee, Director Stephen Elliott's cowriter on the screenplay. Lee is a well-known name in the adult film industry and is also a guest-lecturer at New York University. Lee's insight into the industry makes the script more authentic than any before. She makes Angelina's life a loose resemblance of her own, dispelling the myth that a life in the sex industry is all about exploitation and degradation.
Lee and Elliott also bring work that displays an element of the business that few people consider when thinking of it as a career. The sex industry can be very isolating. The side story of Margaret and her relationship breakdown echoes just how harsh things can be on the people closest to the performers. This arch makes "About Cherry" a multifaceted look at the rise of a porn star and the sacrifices she has to make to follow her unique passion down a road that isn't very popular.
Another prominent theme to consider in the movie is the city of San Francisco. Elliott's direction dramatizes the city's Mission District and its pan sexuality. The city embraces Cherry as she grows into her chosen profession. Unlike her family, boyfriend, and friends, the city has no judgments against Cherry. In fact, it is just as eclectic and ill-fitting to the world at large as she is.
Together, the cast, direction, and screenwriting create a film that is completely unlike the stereotypical "bad girl loses her way" stories that have permeated Hollywood for ages. It offers a fresh look at the sex industry, framing it as a career choice like any other. Lee and Elliott are all too fair to add the negative side of choosing porn as a profession. However, "About Cherry" isn't about those negative connotations. It is about a girl finding her passion in the world.