Dir. Stephen Elliott
I watched About Cherry while drinking airplane bottles of Woodbridge Chardonnay on a trip from San Francisco to North Carolina. I got really drunk. I made a woman uncomfortable because her teenage son kept straining his neck to watch the sex scenes on my Macbook. I let him. Unfortunately, no amount of ghetto sugar wine could make About Cherry even half decent. Hypersexualized San Francisco writer/scenester Stephen Elliott’s attempt to deliver some kind of ‘honest portrayal’ of the adult film/sex industry feels disingenuous and dull. I’m sure the entire cast had a grand ol’ time fucking and snorting coke on the rooftops of SF, but what they left behind is an excruciating 102 minutes for the rest of us.
Angelina (Ashley Hinshaw) works in a laundromat and spends her nights either fucking a boyfriend who thinks she should pose nude for band photographs, or holding her mother’s hair while she pukes up all the alcohol consumed that day. Her life is, like, a total bummer, you guys. So she gets naked, because her boyfriend told her to, and suddenly she’s moving to San Francisco, shooting porn for “Bod,” and going by the porn name, “Cherry.” Director and photographer Margaret (played by a bug-eyed Heather Graham) becomes fixated with Angelina, but Angelina is too busy banging cokehead rich-boy Frances (James Franco, who looks totally wasted) and denying her platonic friend Andrew (Dev Patel) access to her pussy to even notice Margaret’s obsession. Eventually shit gets “messed up” and Angelina has to, you know, re-evaluate her relationships and her career. God, I’m bored just typing this.
About Cherry is one of the most uninspired and vacant depiction of the sex industry I have ever seen. We never know why Angelina makes any of the decisions she does, besides doing what she’s told, and the portrayal of the sex industry is something you might find in a softporn Cinemax late-night movie. It’s a shame, really, because the industry referred to as “Bod” in the film is actually based on San Francisco’s Kink.com — an amazingly perverse institution that includes channels such as “Divine Bitches,” “Everything Butt,” “Transgender Seduction,” and my personal favorite, “Public Disgrace.” Gender-queer performances set Kink apart from other adult sites, as does the shooting location: an armory built by the National Guard in 1913. It’s a San Francisco landmark.
Kink is fantastic because it’s smart enough to subvert a political ‘pro-sex’ agenda with smut and filth, all the while winking at us. Elliott’s film, though, seems to want to push the pro-sex thing with Angelina’s carefree attitude and sweet naivete towards sex and her body. She shoots porn because, well, I’m not really sure — but I think it’s because the money is decent and she’s too stupid to care? Angelina, like the other characters, lacks any kind of depth, so it’s difficult to understand why anyone does anything. There comes a point, too, when Elliott’s soft lens on Angelina’s tits becomes a thing of voyeuristic creepiness, rather than any bold embrace of sexuality. Elliott had so many great porno paths to take, but instead opted for the vanilla side, and boy does he milk those tit shots. When we’re left with little to chew on, like the crumbs of a story and script, it’s difficult to view About Cherry as anything other than a bro’s chance to film a lot of topless women in San Francisco’s porn headquarters. Oh yeah, and there’s the chance to hang out with James Franco, too. Given the chance to let Kink’s radical approach speak for itself and to put SF’s genius porn industry on the map, Elliott opts for squandering the opportunity and makes a harmless, pointless film about sex. You’re better off taking a tour of The Armory than you are watching About Cherry.