Tuesday, November 29, 2022


More than 2,000 years ago Aesop warned us: "Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true!" That idea is central to Pleasure, the stark look at the porn industry through a wide-eyed 19 year-old Swedish teen (Sofia Kappel) who moves to Los Angeles with dreams of becoming a star. While she initially sets boundaries, it doesn't take long for Bella Cherry to begin making compromises while desperately chasing fame hoping to earn a treasured spot on the most exclusive agency in town.

While far from blazing new territory, writer/director Ninja Thyberg's film succeeds in exposing the seedier underbelly of porn through an unflinching lens. Although Bella Cherry sometimes finds supportive help on-set, as she pushes herself further down the rabbit hole she runs head first into consequences she's emotionally and psychologically ill-prepared for.

In an age of online cam modeling offering easy money to young women of all shapes and sizes and a booming porn industry catering to every fetish imaginable, Thyberg's film asks a single question of its main character and where her ambition will ultimately lead. Whether or not Bella Cherry eventually becomes the biggest star she can be in porn, was her journey worth it?

The uncensored version of the film features quite a bit of nudity on set, but the sex scenes are far from glamorous and more suggested than shown, allowing your imagination to fill in the gaps. This structure works particularly well when Bella agrees to film the roughest scene of her career which, despite her repeated reluctance during, she's eventually coerced to complete by the multiple towering angry men growing frustrated with her attitude. While not explicitly stated in words, we do see how the older male-driven side of the business can be used to intimidate and coerce a naïve teenager.

Aside from some initial thrill at completing her first scene, we don't see much pleasure for Bella Cherry on set which Thyberg captures as quite mundane before the cameras start rolling. These scenes, along with early scenes where Bella Cherry has nothing to do but sit and wait in a house full of girls she doesn't particularly like for long stretches at a time, also chip away at the allure of the industry. These periods of inactivity, along with pressure from agents, reinforce Bella's change in attitude as she discovers more success and steadier work once leaving her remaining inhibitions behind, despite the consequences.

Kappel is the star of the film, seen in nearly every shot and is definitely put through an emotional wringer. It's a delicate balance Thyberg strides in reminding us that Bella Cherry repeatedly offers consent for what unfolds. If she's a victim its as much to her own ambition and choices as the porn industry itself. Other notable performances include Zelda Morrison as another girl in the model house Bella Cherry stays providing the closest thing we will see as a friend in this world, Evelyn Claire as the colder elite pornstar Bella hopes to become, and Chris Cock as one of the first people she meets in the industry who will pop up again from time to time to offer some concern over where her career is headed (although not enough to back his words with action).

  • Title: Pleasure
  • IMDb: link

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