The poster & title will turn a head, the story of a teenager starting out in the porn business will sell tickets, add a well-known cast including James Franco & Heather Graham, that will get your film coverage and word of mouth. This formula sounds good so far, doesn’t it? Unfortunately writer & director Stephen Elliot’s debut comes off as a flat attempt to evoke emotion through the story of Angelina aka Cherry as she learns her way through the porn industry.
Angelina/Cherry is played by Ashley Hinshaw (Chronicle), a high school dropout with a dead end job at a laundromat, an alcoholic mother played by Lili Taylor (Six Feet Under) with a abusive boyfriend, and has nothing much to look forward to. Alongside Angelina is her dumb love crush Andrew played by Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, The Newsroom), who follows her like a lovesick puppy dog. At the time what is thought to be done for quick cash, Angelina decides to take nude photos after being given the idea by her boyfriend. Soon after, Angelina leaves her sick mother and helpless younger sister with Andrew by her side en route to San Francisco. While waitressing at a strip club she’s recommended to a porn studio and soon after begins dating Francis played by James Franco (127 Hours).
That might sound like a quick summary but that is how the film plays out. There is no real feeling or time put into the stories and the characters feel incomplete without any depth. The editing feels like a mess and the result is a story that is rushed and not important in any aspect. The film would be a complete loss but cinematographer Darren Genet did a beautiful job shooting this in HD. With the exception of Margaret played by Heather Graham (Boogie Nights), I did not care for any of the characters as no one had any redeeming qualities. Angelina’s motivation for doing anything is never explained and it just seems selfish, Andrew is an idiot that takes too much crap and when he finally does explode, I did not care because it should’ve happened a lot earlier. Angelina’s relationship with Francis comes off as wanting to be something “magical” but is a joke involving a rich, coked up douche bag.
Margaret’s character was given substance; how she would balance out her professional life and her love life was the only story I wanted to see play out. Margaret’s partner Jillian played by Diane Farr (Rescue Me, Californication) was great in her role as the straight forward, white collar banker. The conflict between them and the realization that nothing can be worked out is played out well. The tension and drama brought up in their scenes beats out anything else in the film. I just wish Elliot spent more time putting this format to the rest of the film.
One could argue Elliot was trying to make the female equivalent of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights but that certainly was not the case. Sure one is almost an entire hour longer than the other but running time has nothing to do with it. Both films have a character that is pushed into the business due to their surrounding environment, from that path they make their own decisions, not always the best ones and from there they grow and learn from their mistakes. The big exception here though is: one is a finely tuned work of art and the other is a mess in need of retooling. Above all though one thing is for certain…. Rollergirl still got it.
1.5 out of 5