Tuesday 12 December 2017

Cherry (aka About Cherry)

Damn Fine Pie

Cherry (aka About Cherry)
USA 2012 Directed by Stephen Elliott
Koch Media Blu Ray Zone B

Warning: Very slight spoilers here but... it’s not that type of movie.

Cherry is a little seen (if the box office take is anything to go by) movie written by the director, Stephen Elliot and porn actress/director Lorelei Lee. I think I must have ordered this one quite cheaply from a tangental Amazon recommendation and I suspect the cover art had something to do with that. Having looked through the ratings given to this movie by the usual sites such as Rotten Tomatoes and the IMDB, I think it’s good that I watched this thing because, frankly, somebody needs to speak up for it.

The film starts off with stark white on black titles to the sound of somebody browsing through radio stations. We then carry on the credits in the company of Angelina (the film’s main lead, also known as Cherry and played by Ashley Hinshaw) who is in a car, being driven home by her boyfriend and trying to find that ‘right’ station. When she gets back to her younger sister, her alcoholic mother (played by Lili Taylor) and her step dad, we see exactly how she’d want to escape the drudgery of her life working at her local laundromat with no future.

So she does just that... by posing for some nude pictures for a website locally, using the money to move to San Francisco with her best friend Andrew, played by Dev Patel. Once she is there she gets involved with a new boyfriend, a hotshot but ultimately unlikeable lawyer played by James Franco while, at the same time, biting the bullet and getting involved in the porn industry... where she goes through a story arc which takes her from befriending her first director (played beautifully by Heather Graham) while being a performer in front of the camera to, eventually, directing the films herself.

The movie is interesting in that, while the very early sequences are shot in a more voyeuristic manner, the middle and end sections of the movie which specifically deal with the creative process behind the art of a voyeuristic consumable, are shot more 'matter of fac'tly and straightlaced. For example, in the early scenes of the movie, the characters tend to be in long shot a lot and often seen through an opening or from behind a foreground object, as though the camera is casually observing rather than bringing the audience into the lap of the characters, so to speak. Although this modus operandi doesn’t continue for the majority of the movie (it seemed to me), there is a lot of handheld camera throughout. Don’t get me wrong, there are some static shots and sequences which include a more controlled movement but... quite a lot of the piece is handheld and, of course, in the earliest sequences of the movie, this adds to the sense of the audience being the voyeur. Later on though, when the audience really is seeing what is being shot for the audience of the firm Cherry (her porn name) is working for, it maybe takes over by implication and brings us closer to the potential audience for her ‘product’ and maybe this potential interaction between the consumers and the naked performers is why the director seems to change the way the film is being shot at this point.

Another thing the director does is to use some nice compositions based on vertical lines, both interior and exterior. When Cherry is seen walking down the street en route to what some of my readers may no doubt recognise as a particular building renowned for making some notorious porn content (yeah, the pornographers in this movie seem to be very much based on Kink.com, which writer Lee has presumably had a lot of experience with), Elliot uses the natural verticals created by the cityscapes... the corners of buildings, jutting street signs and lamp posts etc. to frame Cherry as she goes to her audition. Similarly, there’s a beautiful series of shots where Cherry is in her bedroom, sitting on her bed and looking in a mirror as she explores her own body, which has lots of vertical splits penetrating her space and it’s all rather impressive.

There seems to have been a lot of online negative feedback that the minimalistic story arc, such as it is (this is more a study of people rather than a plot driven piece) is unrealistic in terms of the adult industry and I find this a particularly hard point of view to swallow. The path from performer to director and beyond (and into the mainstream) seems to be a fairly proven path for some of the adult workers out there and, after all, isn’t this more or less the path that has taken one of the writers, Lorelei Lee, to the point where she’s writing this movie? And just look at where people like Sasha Grey have gotten. Frankly, I find the people making those kinds of comments more unrealistic, truth be told. Lee is presumably writing this movie from experience and some of the sharper and more adventurous of my readers might notice that some of her fellow performers such as Princess Donna and Sensi Pearl are taking roles in this movie too... not to mention Lee’s performance in a small role here.

Ultimately, Cherry tells how the title character got to where she is by the end of the movie and does so in a way that involves a lot of adult eye candy, some nice shot set ups and some quite nice performances from all of the principal actors involved. And that’s me done with this one. A fairly short review, for me but for a film that is fairly short and sweet itself. Not big on plot for those concerned with, or used to, seeing a bigger and more involving story arc but ultimately a nice character piece and definitely worth a watch if you are interested in some of the things that go on behind the scenes of a pornographic website and the possible consequences to the lives of some of the stars. Check it out sometime... I found it quite intriguing.

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