It’s a Hollywood myth all too familiar: a bright-eyed ingenue gets off the bus in Los Angeles with dreams of stardom, only to get gobbled up by a carnivorous industry and spat out the other side. Except that Bella Cherry is no bumpkin with her sights set on the Oscar stage – the Swedish emigré is dead-set on rising to the top of the city’s booming porn biz, whatever it takes. Or so she thinks, as she comes to realize once the full, exacting definition of ‘whatever it takes.’
The first trailer for Ninja Thyberg‘s daring drama Pleasure, posted online just this afternoon, introduces us to Sofia Kappel as the savvy yet naive Bella. She knows she likes to have sex and be seen doing it, but she’s not ready for a power structure that incentivizes pushing yourself farther and farther in order to succeed.
The trailer runs through the beats of her ascent, as she goes from a newb unsure of how to make her buttocks pop in photos (shades of Nomi Malone pronouncing the designer’s name “Ver-sayce”) to a sought-after submissive unfazed by the ball gag jammed between her lips. Along the way, a number of real-world porn personalities make cameo appearances as themselves, including such fan favorites as actresses Gina Valentina and Abella Danger, parody savant Axel Braun, and overnight queenmaker Mark Spiegler.
In her review from the film’s world premiere at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, our critic on the scene Emily Maskell was stricken by the frankness of Thyberg’s approach. “Explicit from its first moments, Thyberg’s film explores power, sexuality and friendship, adopting a female worker’s-eye view in a male-dominated industry in order to show that the glossy, pristine sets tell a different reality to that behind the camera,” Maskell wrote. She went on to predict that controversy would befall the eventual release: “With clarity, the most dire and disgusting aspects of the porn industry are highlighted in this technically accomplished if potentially divisive 18+ feature.”
Her prophecy has already come true, with A24’s decision to sell off distribution rights to main competitor Neon last year, in the wake of a kerfuffle that saw A24 attempt to reedit the film to achieve an R rating that would allow for more screens in the theatrical run. Looks like Thyberg will get her wish with her new studio, which will release the film in the US unrated and uncut. The smart money says that isn’t the last fuss that will be raised over this polarizing button-pusher.
Pleasure comes to cinemas in the US on 13 May. A date for the UK has yet to be set.
Published 9 Mar 2022
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