Director: Stephen Elliot
Writers: Lorelei Lee and Stephen Elliot
Stars: Ashley Hinshaw, Lili Taylor, Dev Patel, James Franco, and Heather Graham
The idea of About Cherry is good, but it suffers from poor execution.
Angelina (Ashley Hinshaw) is a high school drop-out with an alcoholic mother (Lili Taylor), a father that may have but definitely had thoughts of sexually abusing her, and a little sister who has retreated into her own internal world. She has one friend–male–who secretly loves her and a boyfriend who really doesn’t care for her.
One night her boyfriend suggests to Angelina a way to make good money fast. He knows a photographer that pays well to take sexually provocative photos. He’s done it himself and can refer her. She initially declines. But after a night at home with her mother passed out on the sofa and her father entering her room while she and her sister sleep, she decides to go for the easy money. After the shoot, with $600 in hand and the help of Andrew (Dev Patel), her pining friend, they drive to San Francisco in search of a new life.
In the city, they find a sublet room in an apartment where they have to share the bed. After some time Andrew gets a job at a bookstore and Angelina one as a waitress in a strip club. There she meets Francis (James Franco), a young lawyer giving $100 tips. He comes in another day looking for her and wanting to get to know her better. They eventually date and she discovers his cocaine habit.
At work while in the dressing room, one of the dancers suggests to Angelina the possibility of doing porn since she already has done sexual photos. Tempted by the money, she goes for it. For porn she uses the name Cherry, and her first movie is about her pleasuring herself. Her director is Margaret (Heather Graham), a lesbian who quickly has an eye for the new girl on the block. As she becomes more experienced, she graduates from self-fulfillment to girl-on-girl and then eventually girl-boy. As her “career” grows, she is visited by the judging eye of her mother and deals with the building sexual tension of David, Francis, and Margaret.
Though the story is believable in how someone gets into porn and brings up some excellent points, in the end you do not care about any of these characters. Andrew never reveals his feelings for Angelina. When he is caught by her pleasuring himself to one of her videos, you think he is a loser because he never said or did anything to win her affection and just wasted his time being there. Francis is a rich mama’s boy addict who hates his life and his choices. Though she has genuine feelings for Angelina, Margret also only views her as a sexual plaything initially. Like Andrew, she also watches Angelina’s videos for pleasure. As for Angelina, you understand why she took the photos in the beginning as a means of escape and to start a new life. But why when she took that chance did she not make an effort to start that new life instead of just repeating the cycle of her old one?
This is director Stephen Elliott’s first film and it shows. He decided to go with a shaking hand-held camera look for the film, and it proves to be more distracting than artistic. He also has some fairly abrupt edits that cause confusion. One example is after Angelina was involved in a car accident and received a cut on her forehead. That night she goes to sleep with Margret with the cut, but when she wakes up it is missing. I assumed this was a continuity error, but discovered based off their breakfast conversation that months had passed.
The acting was good across the board, with high praise for Lili Taylor. James Franco appeared to be available only for one day and came not having showered in a few. He wore the same outfit–minus the jacket in one scene–the whole time, had the same messed-up greasy hair with pimples along the hairline, three-day growth of facial hair, and tired hackneyed eyes. As for Ashley Hinshaw, she did a solid job, and I look forward to her next performance.
In the end the movie feels too long, and you just don’t care.
Grade = D