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  About Cherry Her So-Called Life
Year: 2012
Director: Stephen Elliott
Stars: Ashley Hinshaw, Lili Taylor, Dev Patel, Diane Farr, Jonny Weston, James Franco, Heather Graham, Maya Raines, Vincent Palo, Elana Krausz, Isaac Fitzberald, Lorelei Lee, K. Lee, Princess Donna, Sensi Pearl, Michael Torres
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: Eighteen-year-old Angelina (Ashley Hinshaw) lives in Long Beach, U.S.A, is bright but has no patience with school, and stays with her sister, her alcoholic mother Phyllis (Lili Taylor) and her mother's partner, a perpetually furious bully who cannot stand that Phyllis can barely look after herself without Angelina's help. In spite of her family's dependence on her, the girl is keen to escape to the big city; she gets a hint of how she could do so when she is alone with her boyfriend and after spending some time getting amorous he suggests she could make a lot of money by taking her clothes off in photographs.

Naturally, Angelina is insulted and storms out, but there has been a seed planted in her mind, and About Cherry, also known by a title abbreviated to simply Cherry, looks all set to be an exposé of the pornography industry, except director Stephen Elliott had it in mind to make more of a domestic drama out of his premise. Interestingly, his co-writer on the script was an actual porn star, Lorelei Lee (not be confused with the Marilyn Monroe character, though that might have been part of the intention), who apparently filled in the background and San Francisco locations with her personal experiences as well as acting a role (as the most unreal-looking, therefore porny, performer).

This should render the movie with a note of authenticity, and it's true when Angelina gets around to fleeing her old life and is finally persuaded to not only to doff her togs but indulge in sexual acts for the camera there was a convincing evenhandedness about the scenes, where we could understand that the makers did not wish to condemn those who worked in this business. However, if everything was fine and dandy then that did not generate much narrative tension, so for all the perhaps refreshing depiction of porn as a way to earn a respectable living, that way was unavoidably established as something of a desperate measure for most of those involved if our heroine was anything to go by.

Therefore what was on offer was an insider's view of the sex industry which kept getting dragged down by the sort of clichés that were taken care of in nineteen-seventies issue of the week television movies, only here they were allowed to include the nudity and sex scenes. Now, of course Hinshaw is not a genuine porn actress, but it did leave the film in the strange position of being uncertain whether we were meant to be objectifiying Angelina - or indeed Hinshaw - whenever she did nudity, as if this was intended to be titillating, or in fact we were asked to see her as a three-dimensional character, which was tricky when she blandly lived down to so many contrivances of too many stories we had seen before.

Even if you hadn't seen them before, the plotline here did come across as hackneyed and you could find very little to surprise you as Angelina's mother tracks her down and proves an embarrassment, or she gets a slightly sleazy lawyer boyfriend who eventually disapproves when she decides to have actual sex on camera, said boyfriend played by James Franco with a degree of inevitability. A more original note was struck by porn director Heather Graham, who is in a lesbian relationship which moves towards pointing out how being in this line of work can put a woman off men forever, but then she gets to play out an angry sex scene with the actress playing her girlfriend where again you're not sure how you're supposed to react. A less original note was Dev Patel as the gay best friend who ends up understandably confused what with chastely sharing Angelina's bed. What you were left with was a very deliberately paced yarn remaining steadfastly unilluminating, sort of like Showgirls without the laughs, and in spite of the subject matter was curiously dull. Music by Jeff Russo.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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