New from Peter Spedale on Be Movie See Movie: Movie Review: Pleasure

See if you’ve heard this story before. Shy girl leaves her little town and moves to Los Angeles to become famous. Trying to make ends meet, she finds her way to stardom via a porno shoot. Well, if you’re Bella Cherry (Sofia Kappel), you just skip the first part of the story and go right to the porn career. Pleasure reminds us despite the fantasy people on the viewing end feel watching their “stars”, the porn industry is no different than any other career, but can be just as compelling off camera as it is in front of one.

Bella Cherry is Linnea, a girl from Sweden intent on making her living as an adult entertainer. Fresh off the plane, she gets an agent, who puts her in an apartment with other people like her, including Joy (Revika Anne Reustle) from Florida. Pleasure takes us through Bella’s life, showing us the ins and outs of her chosen industry, especially as she slowly acends into porn stardom. Damn, I should have said rises or grows or used a double entendre, my bad.

Much like Boogie Nights, Ninja Thyberg’s Pleasure shows us the details of living inside of the porn industry. Bella is happiest when she’s having sex on camera; so all the off camera work really makes her roll her eyes and become a bit exasperated for the scene to start. Apparently to create those “cumshot compilations” takes a real lot of intense paperwork and preparation! The jarring juxtaposition on vs off camera works every time for at least a chuckle, as vile “misogynistic” actors become really sweet the minute the lights turn off, or a man asks a female entertainer to douche before the scene. Yes Thyberg’s goal is make the audience laugh, but these scenes also completely de-mythologize the industry on all sides: porn fans will be more than a little put off by the sheer amount of body work and unsexy inane conversations their stars have, and prudish folks will stop seeing adult entertainers as “sluts,” instead transforming them into businesswomen whose careers just happen to be based around sex.

Because Ninja Thyberg is so adept at unsexying an industry built around sex, those juxtapositions seep into Bella Cherry and her dream, slowly eroding the fantasy life she’s made for herself. Because sex is so intricately tied to people’s emotions, making a career constantly engaging with those unchecked feelings can be dangerous to you or your scene partner. There are a few times where even Bella’s love of sex is overcome by pure unfiltered emotion, resulting in these little scars Sofia Keppel expertly shows Ms. Cherry continues to accrue as she pushes for a bigger career more quickly, maybe learning some of the most vile lessons embedded in the industry. Those scars become scabs, which threaten to turn Linnea the person fully into Bella Cherry, the female sexual fantasy vessel, devoid of any emotion for other people except her own and her business manager’s desires. Thyberg’s script and Keppel’s brave acting showcase, in penetrating fashion, the ubiquitous and specific struggle of someone rising through the ranks of the career they choose, and the array of decisions they are forced to make about either their friends, lifestyle, or time commitments in pursuit of what they “want”.

It would be condescending to call Pleasure the “Female Boogie Nights,” something one of the male porn “characters” would definitely call this movie. But Ninja Thyberg’s film rises above that derivative comparison because of Sofa Kappel’s performance and Thyberg’s details driven storytelling. This is a movie where a bunch of teens at a slumber party might watch for some T, A, & P, but a few of those boys will go home and be thinking about Linnea, the fascinating woman trying to get ahead in the career she loves. Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin.

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