Occasionally movies appear to come in topical batches employing similar theme. In the last couple of week I received three flicks that seem to qualify for this observation with a theme of girls falling into evil clutches, particularly one possessed by a demon, one teen becoming a hooker and another going into the adult film industry, I managed to get through the first two so it appears he porn industry is on deck. ‘About Cherry’ chronicles the descent of a teen age girl into the murky depths of the pornographic movie industry. Most stalwart citizens are openly against pornography as the bane of our culture and the scourge of our society. It is denounced as degrading to women and eroding our moral fabric creating rapists and killers. The thing is pornography is a multibillion dollar a year industry every illegitimate portion of the global entertainment industry so obviously somebody is not grievously offended by pornography.
There is an inherent problem with a flick concerning a teenage girl being seduced into the life of degradation and debasement. The filmmaker can either come across as overly didactic with a Lifetime movie approach of the cautionary tale or is can veer into the puerile presentation approaching a soft core film suitable for Cinemax after dark. One of the best presentations of this theme can be seen in the George C. Scott vehicle, ‘Hardcore’, released back in 1979. It depicted the story through the eyes of a frantic a desperate father trying to rescue his daughter. ‘About Cherry’ is told through the first person, from the vantage point of the exploited teen. The author of the story is former adult film performer, Lorelei Lee, who lived and witnessed firsthand what is described here. She also was involved in several high profile obscenity legal cases. Co-authoring the screenplay with her is the director, Stephen Elliott, presenting his freshman opus with this movie. Affording at least a modicum of credentials to the piece is it was entered in the independent film festival circuit. As an Indy you expect it to explore topics that the mainstream film studios would likely decline. The strength of most independent movie is seen here, uncovering a portion of our society you might otherwise never get to witness. While this is not a guarantee of quality it typical gives an indication that despite its shortcomings the project represented an earnest effort.
At 18 years of age Angelina (Hinshaw) has her entire life stretched out before her. She is a senior in high school looking forward to what lies beyond graduation but ultimately unhappy in her small town life. Please note by making the center of the story the filmmaker avoids compounding the moral turpitude with the exploitation of minors. It’s best to retain that type of story for an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’. Her slide into corruption begins as is usually does in these movies with her boyfriend Bobby (Jonny Weston). He wants to take some artistic photographs of her, i.e. naked pictures. Girls, please do not fall for this ploy. I was once a teenage boy driven by hormones but I grew out of it and I’m currently the father of a daughter; it changes ones’ perspective immensely. Of course in this modern digital age the inducement is made significantly easier. You used top need a Polaroid but now most cell phones come with a high definition camera. The boyfriend wants Angelina to snap the naked photos herself and send them to her. Admittedly he is more up front with her than usual telling her he plans to sell them for some quick cash. Angelina plans to use her portion of the proceeds to run away from home to San Francisco. Angelina runs off with her best friend, Andrew (Dev Patel) hoping for something better. Once again a trusted male in her life is responsible for eroding her moral grounding. Andrew takes her to party held in a strip club. While there she meets an upscale lawyer Francis (James Franco) who professes an interest in introducing Angelina to the finer things in life; expensive clothing, jewelry and exciting parties.
The impressionable young woman also encounters an attractive woman in her early forties, Margaret (Heather Graham). It turns out that she was porn actress currently moved up to the production and direction end of the business. For those keeping track of irony Ms Graham played a porn ingénue in the classic movie about the adult film industry, ‘Boogie Nights’. Margaret tells Angelina she is beautiful and has a lot of potential. She gives Angelina the nom de voyage of Cherry and offers to introduce her to the business. Initially Margaret books her protégé in soft core movies; nudity but only simulations of intercourse. The money is good but once Cherry becomes accustomed to the disposable income and the attention lavished on her Margaret talks her into doing hard core scenes.
Once again the film makes certain to provide a foundation for the factors that make Angelina susceptible to an industry readily known as illegal and immoral. Angelina comes from a troubled home environment. Her mother Phyllis (Lili Taylor) is an alcoholic and works after school in a minimum wage job at a Laundromat. Despite her dreams of a better life the reality of the situation is her future looks bleak at best. To its credit the film does not make it look like pornography is the young woman’s only option; it is a choice, albeit an ill-advised one. The only male that did not betray her is Francis, who she can share her bed with ion an entirely platonic way that is. Franco is usually a more robust actor but in this instance it appears that he is sleepwalking through most of his portrayal. The young Ms Hinshaw is suitably beautiful with a girl next door appeal. She was in the Sci-Fi movie, ‘Chronicle’, and appeared as Miley Cyrus’ best friend in ‘LOL’. She does well here presenting enough of the innocence lost vibe to make her role seem realistic. The one detraction is a rather significant one; it glosses over the seedier side of pornography. The sets for the shoots almost come across as a family, more functional than the one Angelina ran away from. You might even get the idea that this movie was prepared by the adult film industry to demonstrate that it’s not so bad; spend a few years paying you dues in front of the camera and then continue to make money behind it with a production company.