Pleasure plunges Bella Cherry head first (pardon the pun) into the world of porn with a very detailed sequence showing her very first shoot. It is intense, shocking and confrontational. It is a make or break moment for Bella and the audience (there were several walk outs during this scene at Sundance London).
Make it past the initial shock and one will discover a fiercely intelligent female filmmaker taking a warts and all look at an industry that is sadly still run by men.
Going in to the film, this reviewer expected a hard-hitting expose. Forcing the industry to take a long hard look at itself. It was surprising therefore to discover that it sticks very closely to the Hollywood rags to riches plot device.
Young naive starlet comes to LA to make it big. Immediately meets an attractive rival. The moment where they hit rock bottom. Get a second chance. Decide if they want to sell their soul to get what they want and screw over (literally) anyone they care about to get it. All that is missing is a Rocky-style musical montage where she is training for her “big” scene.
The title derives from the U.S. Customs & Border Protection Officer who asks the Swedish ingenue the purpose of her trip: “Business or pleasure”. It turns out the title is slightly ironic as the film goes on to take very little pleasure in the act itself. The industry is built around the desire to titillate and arouse yet the presentation of the act of filming is decidedly unsexy. The harsh, clinical nature of it, the blocking, etc all helps to build the idea that it is a job.
It is a raw and fearless performance from Sofia Koppel. She takes her character on a journey to some dark places within herself. Forcing her to confront her own prejudices and boundaries. There is the old adage “be careful what you wish for” and she must determine what price she is willing to pay to achieve her dream. Not only that but as the audience’s conduit into this world, she causes them to ask questions of themselves about what they are exposed to within the world that is portrayed.
Like a pornstar unable to sustain an erection, the film does fall a little flat at its climax. Narratively, it does fit for Bella’s story arc but it is rather abrupt.
Ultimately Pleasure is not an easy watch. It is meant to provoke you and at times makes for deeply uncomfortable viewing. However it is also a well made piece of filmmaking that signals the arrival of talented new voices in Thyberg and Koppel.
Director: Ninja Thyberg
Stars: Sofia Kappel, Revika Anne Reustle, Evelyn Claire
Runtime: 109 minutes