Synopsis: 18-year-old Angelina (Ashley Hinshaw, Chronicle) shuffles between school, a dead-end job, her exploitative boyfriend (Johnny Weston) and home, where her life consists of cleaning up after her alcoholic mother (Lily Taylor) and protecting her younger sister from their menacing stepfather. After arranging an escape to San Francisco with her best friend Andrew (Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), she soon finds herself dating a coke-addicted attorney and becoming immersed in the local porn industry, mentored by lesbian director Margaret, who has more than just a professional interest in Angelica’s talents. Taking an insider’s view of the adult film world, first-time director and novelist Stephen Elliott’s About Cherry is a gritty drama featuring an all-star cast in unprecedented roles.
About Cherry 6.5
eyelights: the filmmaker’s attempt at creating a true-to-life scenario.
eyesores: the emotional rifts in film’s character development. the clichés. the gaps in the passages of time. the disposability of characters.
‘About Cherry’ is the story of a young woman who, for lack of other opportunities, ends up working in the porn industry – at first doing pictures for a website, and then performing on video. The film is about her journey to and through the industry, the impact it has on her romantic relationships and the impact of her familial relationships. It was co-written by industry veteran Lorelei Lee.
With a tagline such as “There’s no such thing as going too far”, you’d half expect the film to push boundaries – or at least to not fall for genre conventions. Alas, ‘About Cherry’ was anything but fresh: it serves up stale slices of “life” that we’ve seen many times over on screen: the best friend who longs for the protagonist but will never say so explicitly, the alcoholic parents, …etc.
The storytelling was full of gaping holes. One moment Angelina (or “Cherry”) is coaxed into shooting nude pictures by her boyfriend, the next she’s leaving for San Francisco with her best friend Andrew, the next she’s working in a strip club, then she goes for an interview at a porn studio, …etc. Each new development takes place with no prior warning, seemingly randomly – and with little or no explanation.
There isn’t even a proper introduction of many of the characters: Andrew, for instance, is first introduced while giving Angelina a lift, and we have no idea who he is or why he’s her chauffeur. And what about her guitarist boyfriend? Why does he feel like she just picked him up in the club? It’s all so very sketchy: it’s as though there was a set-up to the characters and story but that it’s gone missing.
At least the cast was generally respectable:
– Angelina/Cherry was played by Ashley Hinsham. She was okay, nothing special. But she was credible enough, even if she didn’t actually make the character appealing – let alone entrancing. What I liked best is that she was cute, natural – not some plastic girl, like we see all too often these days. But would she be porn star material? Hmmm… I’m not so sure about that. And why is Margaret so obsessed with her? What makes her so special? We’ll never know.
– James Franco is Francis, a guy that Angelina meets in a strip club, while she waitressing. He’s kind of sleezy-looking, and appears totally untrustworthy, and yet she falls for him, letting his weak apologies wipe away any concerns she might have. I’m not a huge fan of the cocky and pretentious Franco, but he came off okay here. Couldn’t he at least shave that nasty pseudo-beard, though? He looked like a rat – hardly the high society businessman and playboy he’s supposed to be.
– Heather Graham, played Margaret, a porn photographer and filmmaker who falls for Cherry. Graham was the biggest surprise, because I usually despise her. She did good here, even though she was too doe-eyed for my taste. We never understood why Margaret is drawn to Angelina, but Graham gave it what she could. We also never understood why her girlfriend was so quick to drop her, despite many years together, when Margaret started focusing on the new recruit
– Dev Patel was quite amiable as Andrew, Angelina’s best friend. His character is one of the only redeemable ones of the lot, being a solid rock for Angelina as she goes through all these changes in her life. Patel makes him friendly in a relatively effortless way, but the part is underwritten: How could he leave for San Fran the way that he did? How did he sustain his new life? Why was he so enamoured with Angelina, even as she cast him aside?
– Lily Taylor did a decent job of being Angelina’s alcoholic mom. I’ve always found her delivery a little artificial, awkward. I like the uniqueness of her style, and I like the parts that she plays, but there’s just something about her that doesn’t fully convince me. In ‘About Cherry’, she wasn’t entirely believable, but I thought that she played the part fairly well.
Unfortunately, most of the characters seemed disposable, disappearing from the picture whenever convenient – but with no explanation: First Angelina’s boyfriend fades into obscurity as peculiarly as he entered, then Angelina’s mom and sister leave never to be heard from again, then Angelina and Andrew’s roommate drops off the map, then Andrew and Angelina get into an argument and we never see him again. We don’t even know where these people went or what’s happened to them; there’s no resolution there.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
Ultimately, the key problem with ‘About Cherry’ is in the script: not only are the characters underdeveloped and there are plot holes galore, but it’s filled with inexplicable scenes that made me disconnect from the picture. Sadly, many of these were at the tail end, thereby reducing the impact of an already stunted picture:
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
Bottom line is that there’s not much to be said about ‘About Cherry’. It’s a fairly plain film that tells an unoriginal story filled with unenticing characters, featuring unremarkable performances. It’s hardly a terrible film, but it suffers from a weak script that could have benefited from a rewrite or two. The production itself is relatively good, but only a utterly compelling cast could have saved this “Cherry”.
Date of viewing: July 31, 2013