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Inside Out 2012: ‘Cherry’ gratuitously indulges on the license of its premise

Directed by Stephen Elliott
Written by Stephen Elliott and Lorelei Lee
USA, 2012

For adult entertainers working in the San Fernando Valley, a transition into the business of tinsel town has proven to be fruitless. For an industry that doesn’t require much acting, and even less writing, porn stars, like Sasha Grey in The Girlfriend Experience, flounder when they’re required to perform outside of their hitherto untouched skill sets. So it’s no surprise that when X-rated actress Lorelei Lee decided to co-write the film Cherry with writer-director Stephen Elliott, the result is nearly pornographic.

The film follows Angelina (Ashley Hinshaw), a young, cash-strapped woman who leaves her abusive mother (Lili Taylor) and runs off to the confines of San Francisco with her best friend Andrew (Dev Patel).

While working as a waitress at a lap-dancing bar, she hooks up with a lawyer named Frances (James Franco), as well as signing on with an adult film company run by a lesbian director, Margaret (Heather Graham).

For a film about such adult material, the inception is exceptionally juvenile. With characters and relationships predicated on impossibilities and fanciful notions, the central conceit of the film feels unfathomable, with the bulk of the duration functioning as an exercise in reductio ad absurdum.

For example, Angelina’s best friend, Andrew, is straight. However, and knowing this, she treats him like a gay friend (like allowing him to sleep in the same bed with her), while never expecting his feelings towards her to transcend platonic. The feasibility of Andrew not developing any carnal sentiments towards Angelina is nil (she’s gorgeous, he’s straight), but the film fails to acknowledge conventional wisdom – a transgression that repeatedly recurs.

Furthermore, the moral of the story is incredibly vapid, amounting to a superficial resolution to real world problems. Without spoiling the plot, Angelina eventually succeeds in the adult industry, under the titular nom de plume Cherry, and as a result, her life problems magically disappear. So what, pray tell, would the film amount to if Angelina wasn’t a stunning blonde with an immaculate body?

Worst of all, the film gratuitously indulges on the license of its premise, with licentious, albeit beautifully shot, imagery. But with such poor and libidinously wishful writing, Cherry feels more like high budget porn than low budget cinema.

– Justin Li

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