Pleasure (2022)
Pleasure (2022)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 49 min.

Release Date: May 13th, 2022 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Ninja Thyberg Actors: Sofia Kappel, Revika Reustle, Evelyn Claire, Chris Cock, Dana DeArmond, Kendra Spade

 


 

“I

feel so stupid.” 22-year-old Linnea, using the name Bella Cherry (Sofia Kappel), from Sweden, arrives in Los Angeles to shoot pornography. At the first set, she’s required to hold up her identification and the day’s newspaper, while also verbally acknowledging and signing plenty of consent notifications and warnings about what she’s about to engage in. After that, she’s introduced to her male partner for the scene, along with the cameraman and another assistant, but she’s quickly overwhelmed. Stage fright happens to most aspiring porn stars, insists the crew, attempting to console her; but it’s not exactly a bad thing. “We need that innocence, that shyness, that nervousness.”

After her first full scene, Bella is far less intimidated and apprehensive, though sustained misgivings are assured. Her living situation, at a model house full of other adult film star wannabes, isn’t ideal, but she’s not there to make friends. Yet her routines are considerably more manageable when she opens up and socializes with her roommates – even if they represent some of the competition, and certainly don’t always have her best interests in mind. As Bella explores the L.A. porn scene, hoping to work her way up the ladder by seeking out better agents, more accommodating directors, and higher pay, she’s forced to analyze what exactly she’s willing to do to become the next major star in adult entertainment.

“Be sexy!” Akin to “Zoya” and “Red Rocket,” steadily hoping to generate a mainstream appeal for films about divisive, taboo subjects – though absolutely without the abundant comic relief – “Pleasure” navigates a rarely witnessed profession with a big-screen treatment, exposing the highs and lows and everything in between. It’s often graphic (the opening shots involve close-ups of sensitive bits), disturbing, and candid; intermittently, like a found-footage film, it appears to chronicle real people in real situations (and, indeed, several cast members play themselves), even though there’s a trace of a story. In its documentary-like way, it pulls back the curtain from what many will believe is a well-known industry, but the behind-the-scenes components are nevertheless disquieting and shocking. When Bella opts to do rougher shoots involving bondage and simulated abuse and rape (a subgenre whose allure says something about a faction of society), the lines of acting and performance become quite blurred.

“Not everything is all sunshine and sparkles,” says roommate Katie (Revika Reustle), somewhat summing up the message of the picture. It’s not specifically judgmental, but it unequivocally displays the ugliness of making pornography, perhaps along the lines of “Showgirls” (with a hint of “The Neon Demon”), but sans the lengthier character studies (or attempts, at least) and professional actors, and only briefly touching upon the business side (such as social media exposure and elements of individual popularity, as well as the marketability of fetishes and general power imbalances). It’s also surprisingly slow; a few moments of drama arise, but there’s an excess of montages and repetitive reenactments of sex acts. By the end, this odyssey is clearly meant to demonstrate Bella’s startling, rocky integration into the industry, as well as her evolving role from pseudo-victim to manipulator, all in bold, sobering, momentarily eye-opening methods – but the entertainment value is incredibly limited.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10