Here was my hope for About Cherry: the film would portray a woman who becomes involved with the adult and becomes empowered instead of an exploited victim. Whereas technically I could say that was a summary of About Cherry, the film fails in every way any film could fail: uninteresting characters, cliched dialogue, and so many film cliches. The other disappointment is that this film seemed like someone’s labor of love; independently financed. How could it end up so uninspired?
It’s worth noting that I sought out this film because it was shot on location at The Armory, the massive studio space of Kink.com, which is located in San Francisco. I’ve been lucky enough to tour it. It is impressive how self-sufficient this company is,and how they stress the fair and supportive treatment of their actors, plus, are very LGBT-positive.
But back to the film: Cherry is a small-town girl, living in a lonely world, and escapes with a friend (Dev Patel) to San Francisco. Cherry did some nude modeling for a photographer before, so she takes no hesitation in applying to be a “model” at the studio. She poses nude while Margaret (Heather Graham), the serious lesbian adult film director takes her picture. There’s something about Cherry that she likes. This girl is different. I wish I saw what Margaret saw, because besides being very pretty Cherry is bland, and seems to just do what pleases other people, which is how she came upon her previous nude modeling shoot.
She’s not the only one who takes a liking to Cherry. James Franco, who yes, is in every movie made, also catcher his on her at her day job, serving cocktails at a nightclub. He’s with a bunch of douchebags who give sass to Cherry, and in a moment of showing personality, Cherry sasses them back. In a scene written by me in sixth grade trying to make a sexy scene, Cherry spits in his shot and asks him to drink it, which he does. How’s that for a meet cute? Franco is a rich art dealer, and invites her to a gallery opening and takes her to a private painting and spontaneously starts telling her about how it makes him feel, since he just feels something special about her. That he can tell her anything.
Here lies the biggest problem: there’s nothing remotely special about Cherry. She’s incredibly pretty, but either actress Ashley Hinshaw is terrible at acting, or there’s nothing she was given to go on. Unless the specific choice was made that people are attracted to her for her beauty, but this film seems to want to be more than a typical story, so I tend to believe we are just supposed to love Cherry because everyone else seems to. Including Dev Patel, her platonic boyfriend and roommate who she finds masturbating to one of her erotic videos, which she finds maddening. Because…he is not allowed to have sexual feelings towards her? Also, she’s an idiot for not knowing. I am in no way saying that he DESERVES to have sex with her, but they sleep in the same bed and never set any boundaries or ground rules. And with that, Dev Patel is pushed from her life and the movie, and perhaps something Dev Patel would be worthy of. [He cannot pick good roles, am I right?]
Then, there’s more relationship drama between Franco and Cherry, because she decides to do heterosexual porn and he doesn’t like that. Which is a complicated thing because it feels more like she is cheating? But she was already being intimate with other women, so he was okay with that because that’s for a male gaze? Ugh. It’s not even something I care to unravel because Cherry doesn’t show any emotion towards it one way or another. And then Margaret is having marital strife with her partner, played by Diane Farr, over commitment to work, and you’d think having Heather Graham’s career as a director of adult films would make it interesting, but no, it’s just like watching any married couple argue: boring.
I guess the maximum word count was approaching in the screenplay, because you can almost hear a silent narrator saying, “quick! we have to rap this up.” So, skip ahead a few months to an epilogue, and Cherry is now in a live-in relationship with Margaret, which is infuriating for many reasons, that one, are we now to believe that Cherry likes women? It’s more plausible that Cherry just acts like people expect her to, so Margaret gave her adoration and she acted in a way to please Margaret, similar to what she’s done throughout the film. To fuel the fire even more, we see Cherry go back to working at the studio at the armory because she, herself, is now a director of the films, and ostensibly is helping new girls to the porn world feel comfortable as Margaret did for her. Excuse me? Cherry shows barely any agency, personality or inkling of interest in directing, and we are supposed to expect that’s where she is now?
I get worked up about how disappointing this film is not just because the storytelling elements fail, but any sort of message or themes are completely muddled. Cherry starts working in the adult film industry: is she empowered by it? Was it worth costing her all her relationships? What did she learn on her “journey”? It just astounds me that this film manages to make kinky pornography seem dull.