$11.00 ticket on a scale of $0 to $13.75.
“About Cherry,” which is the American title of a film elsewhere known as “Cherry,” is a coolly written and played skein of serial abandonment set against the background of the adult entertainment industry. It could have been set against just about any background, except, perhaps space aliens among us, except that helmer & co-scribe Stephen Elliott and co-scribe Lorelei Lee both have experience in the industry, he as a sex worker and she as a porn star.
Pic, which goes into limited release in the US on 21 September, is the coming-of-age and love story of Angelina (the stunningly beautiful Ashley Hinshaw, who, at age 23 has not got much of a resume but holds auds’ attention with her attention to acting detail). The kid hardly misses a beat.
Settings are Long Beach and San Francisco, California. Ashley, at 18 and about to graduate high school in Long Beach, is the caregiver for her alcoholic mother Phyllis (Lili Taylor) her kid sister (Maya Raines) and her abusive dad, who, Allah be praised, appears on screen for maybe two minutes. She works in a commercial laundry.
Her boyfriend, Bobby, whom Hinshaw makes it clear her character adores, is ably played by Jonny Weston, as the guitar player in a local rock band. He pimps her out to an internet porn site telling her that she will get $500 for a one day shoot. At first the suggestion infuriates her. Then she sees it as her ticket away from domestic hell. She goes to work for Vaughn, the internet porno guy played convincingly by Ernest Waddell. She turns out to be a natural star, and before you know it, sleazy boyfriend Bobby finds out that he’s not so thrilled with guys getting off looking at his girlfriend naked on the internet. It’s abandonment number one for Angelina.
This sets up pic’s theme. It’s not about Angelina. It’s about the reactions of those close to her concerning her career. They say way more about themselves than about her.
Here’s the scenario: After sleazy boyfriend in Long Beach has his second thoughts — and he got a commission for setting her up with Vaughn, she takes off to San Francisco with best buddy Andrew, played by Dev Patel of “Slumdog Millionaire” fame. He gets a job in a bookshop. She works as a waitress in gentlemen’s club. The tips are excellent. They share a room in Paco’s (Vincent Palo) rent controlled apartment. Paco, who is gay, has a thing for Andrew, who is not gay. Andrew is a tad hot under the collar sharing a bed with Angelina and not getting any — Heck, who wouldn’t be? To say that the girl is smoking would be understatement. She is the mushroom cloud.
Alcoholic mother Phyllis arrives for an unannounced visit. Angelina gives her the star treatment. Unfortunately, new boyfriend Francis (James Franco, who has one of pic’s least appealing roles) fails to show up at the dinner Angelina plans for him, mom, and sis. Mom pegs him as an addict. Mom knows whereof she speaks. The poor-little-rich-kid artist-turned lawyer cannot keep white powder from going up his nose. (An addict always prefers his fix to a hot chick.) Phyllis then figures out why Angelina is so well off and leaves, cursing her and taking little sister with her. Little sister is not so judgmental.
Eventually, one rejection after another, she catches Andrew getting off to some internet porn by someone else. Angelina freaks out. She demands to know if Andrew is in love with her. He can’t answer. Evidently the guy is either too much of a wimp or he just doesn’t care that much about his best friend. He accuses her of treating him as a foreign pet — he is Indian — from the sub-continent. She says that he obviously doesn’t love her enough to keep from getting off to someone else.
As Angelina’s career progresses in San Francisco’s largest porno film studio, where much of the picture is shot, she eventually goes from girl on girl stuff to guy on girl stuff. It pays better.
Drug addled Francis throws a fit. High as a kite, he curses out Angelina, telling her several times how she disgusts him (as if he should talk) and then crashes his expensive car into a parking garage pillar — with Angelina riding shotgun. In terms of plot, it is shortly after the crash when Angelina, with a cut on her forehead which no one seems to notice, catches Andrew getting off to other chicks’ porno.
We fast forward.
Angelina needs someone to talk to. She finds someone in Margaret (Heather Graham), a director at the porno studio. Margaret has had a thing for Angelina since she met her. Margaret lives with a successful real estate broker Jillian (Diane Farr) who also has a problem with her significant other pursuing porno as a career. It’s an eight-year relationship that ends with a lesbian rape following a cocktail party in which Jillian is embarrassed when Margaret, asked what she does, says she directs adult films. Margaret’s clients find an excuse to migrate to the bar. The next morning Jillian and her stuff are gone from the expensive flat. In their most vulnerable moments Angelina and Margaret bond.
“About Cherry” is a study in hypocrisy. It is also totally believable. People have needs. Porno satisfies some of those needs. The workers should not be ostracized. Your critic would suggest that porno is far less harmful than cocaine. Pic is rated R for sex, drug use, alcoholism, and a few dirty words. Don’t take the kids. They will not understand it.
Lensing by Darren Genet is to the point. Sound recording is excellent. Your critic did not need subtitles. Editing by Michelle Botticelli might as well have been done by the Renaissance painter with whom she shares a surname. Stephen Elliott in his virgin outing as a helmer displays a firm and economical hand at the throttle.
Many of your critic’s colleagues have trashed this picture. Your critic disagrees. It’s not about porno. It’s about human dignity and hipocrisy. Porno is merely the context.