Many times in our lives we spend it eating our meals, but never really knowing how the meal is prepared. We never know how the sausage is stuffed, we never see the cow butchered, and “Pleasure” is, in a way, a look at how the cow is butchered for our entertainment. “Pleasure” isn’t so much an indictment of the porn industry, it’s more so a look at the rough and shoddy experience that is the porn industry and how much it can destroy someone that isn’t quite prepared for it. Our main protagonist Bella Cherry is a woman who will do anything to be a famous porn star, but the question lingers is how far is she willing to go to achieve that stardom?
Twenty year old Bella Cherry leaves her small town in Sweden for Los Angeles with the aim to become the world’s next big porn star. But the road to her goal turns out to be bumpier than she imagined as she begins to see behind the curtain, and is forced to decide if it’s a dream she really wants.
You can argue that “Pleasure” is yet another tale about Hollywood destroying a young aspiring star, but there’s a lot more focus on the nuts and bolts of making a porn movie. Bella Cherry isn’t a wholly complicated young woman. She’s absolutely beautiful, but she moved away from Sweden and came to Hollywood to become a porn star because she was bored. And in a candid admission to her colleagues she “loves cock.” Sofia Kappel is so damn good in her role here as Bella Cherry who loves her culture and home land of Sweden, but is so utterly desperate to break free from her roots. She wants to be something bigger, but she (nor we) are never quite sure what it is, or how she can acquire her goal. Director Ninja Thyberg takes a deeper look in to the porn filmmaking process averting any sense of sensationalism, in favor of something a lot more personal and, at times, absolutely awkward.
In Bella’s first audition we only really see her at shoulder length, and are greeted with a lot of body sounds that indicate heavy sexual intercourse. Even when the scene is finished, we only see Bella’s head savoring in her completion of the scene. From there on, Bella gets a peek in to the industry she’s aspiring for success for, and slowly realizes that it might not be what she really wants. There’s no indication on whether she was talked in to porn, or if she—like many—has a rose colored view of what making porn is. As I stated, during the film she boasts that she’s in to porn because “she loves cock,” and then discovers that there isn’t a whole lot of sex involved in the porn process.
There’s a lot of uncomfortable confrontations with her male co-stars that veer a bit too much in to potential rape and assault. In one scene in the vein of “Perfect Blue,” Bella engages in a bondage porn scene and while her male co-star smacks and slaps her, the room begins to spiral around her. Along the way, Bella isn’t depicted so much as a protagonist or an antagonist. She’s merely someone who is desperate to become a success, and when she comes to learn she’s not exactly setting the world on fire, she pushes it far beyond her own limitations. Like most industries in Hollywood, porn can be predatory, and slimy, and the more Bella sees the flaws over the fame, she has to come to terms with whether she really wants to spend her entire life in this world.
“Pleasure” is a surefire gem that I wish I’d caught on to much sooner; director Ninja Thyberg really takes a step back to give us an engrossing character study and a warts and all look at an industry glorified by many.
Premiering Saturday May 20th, at 7pm at the Leather Archives & Museum.