Bold and brutal storytelling slightly missed the mark for me with the Internet’s recent favorite from Neon.
Bella Cherry arrives in Los Angeles with dreams of becoming an adult film star, but she soon learns that fame won’t come easy as she harnesses her ambition and cunning to rise to the top of this mesmerizing and singular world.
Pleasure is the film debut of Swedish director Ninja Thyberg, based on her 2013 short of the same name, garnered a lot of buzz at the festivals, so naturally, my interest was all there.
The film was selected for the 2020 Cannes Film Festival (it never happened, thanks Covid) and the 2021 Sundance Film Festival (that did), and now Pleasure has finally hit the United States after years of completion.
Originally slated to be released by A24 with an R cut theatrically. With the NC-17 rating, the film was moved over to Neon. I explained Neon to my boyfriend as the next best indie production company after A24, but this movie just wasn’t it for me.
“This film is about being a woman in a male dominated world … you don’t choose patriarchy you deal with it,” Thyberg told audiences on her UK tour. She continued, “I’ve been a filmmaker for 14 years and the main goal was to make films that were questioning and challenging gender stereotypes by dealing with themes of power, femininity, and masculinity.” And, I get it. It’s a deep-rooted world filled with racism, classism, and sexism, but it didn’t reveal anything new to me that I hadn’t known/assumed before, sadly.
Many of the cast members were current or former porn actors at the time, or were people associated in some way with the Los Angeles porn industry. Writer-director Ninja Thyberg met many of them during the research and writing period and told interviewers many of them were excellent improvisational actors.
It’s definitely groundbreaking material into the male-dominated porn industry, but something I can’t quite put my finger on was lacking for me. Film Inquiry sums it up best for me, “Once you remove the explicit content, there’s not that much about Pleasure that is truly revolutionary, or even rebellious.”