Susan Granger’s review of “About Cherry” (IFC Midnight)
First-time director Stephen Elliott and his screenwriting partner, Lorelei Lee, reportedly have experience in the pornographic sex industry – which is why this sleazy, superficial melodrama about a naïve teenager’s involvement with adult entertainment is so disappointing.
Eager to escape from her alcoholic mother (Lili Taylor) and dead-end job in a Laundromat, attractive, 18 year-old Angelina (Ashley Hinshaw), a high-school dropout, leaves Long Beach, California, and heads north to San Francisco with her best friend, Andrew (Dev Patel). Beginning as a cocktail waitress at a strip club, vulnerable Angelina soon becomes involved with two people, neither of whom has her best interests at heart. There’s her wealthy, coke-snorting suitor, an attorney named Frances (James Franco), and her lesbian mentor, Margaret (Heather Graham), who introduces her to the kindly-but-kinky underworld of online bondage porn. That’s where she adopts the pseudonym Cherry, which is perfectly suited for sex peddling. But then Angelina’s mother arrives in town for a visit.
One would expect more drama than gets delivered in this episodic, amateurish drivel from a talented cast that includes Heather Graham, who originally catapulted to fame, skating through the satirical “Boogie Nights”; James Franco, Oscar-nominated for his role in “127 Hours”; and ingratiating Dev Patel, memorable from “Slumdog Millionaire” and, currently, an integral part of Aaron Sorkin’s TV series “Newsroom.” In her cinematic starring debut, Ashley Hinshaw does her best under the circumstances, regurgitating idiotic dialogue like the explanatory: “It’s my job.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “About Cherry” is a flimsy, fetishized 3, delivering little more than a hackneyed skin flick.