Bella Cherry arrives in Los Angeles with dreams of becoming an adult film star, but she soon learns that fame won’t come easy as she harnesses her ambition and cunning to rise to the top of this mesmerizing and singular world.

It’s not uncommon to see movies about young woman (or men) heading to Los Angeles with the hopes of being the next big star, but it is perhaps less common that the focus is on the porn industry and not Hollywood. That’s the outline for ‘Pleasure’, the feature directorial debut from Ninja Thyberg, which centres on a young, confident Swedish girl who travels to America with hopes to become a famous porn star. She is Linnéa (or her stage name Bella Cherry), played by Sofia Kappel, and the movie follows her as she attempts to navigate the challenging world of the porn industry.

Pleasure’ is set in a semi-real world with several of the supporting cast members working in the industry in real life, many of whom are playing ‘themselves’ in the movie, and this lends the movie a gritty authenticity that sets it apart from perhaps more glamorous portrayals of this particular lifestyle. Coming after the excellent ‘Red Rocket’ earlier this year, it’s another movie not afraid to delve into the darker excesses of this industry. Bella is initially placed in a house with other wannabe actresses by her manager and begins by taking on a variety of ‘straightforward’ (by porn standards) roles to start to build her profile within the industry, with a view to getting noticed by the agents and producers that can propel her to the top. She has set herself boundaries but her desire to get more significant roles pushes her into a place where she starts to ignore them which leads her into degrading and downright dangerous situations. This forces her to reconsider her choices and whether this is the life she really wants to lead.

Sofia Kappel is superb in the leading role, which is demanding not solely down to the sexually explicit scenes she is involved in, but also due to the emotional demands placed on her character as she is regularly put in positions where she has to choose between friends, her personal limits and her career. As a feature debut, ‘Pleasure‘ is a really impressive piece of work from Ninja Thyberg, covering a challenging topic (one too big to do justice to in one film) and exploring various themes with deft control, without ever losing sight of this being Linnea’s story. It both works on a wider level as an exploration of the industry, and as the story of how one woman is faced with difficult decisions as she tries to balance her desire for success with the power dynamics that chip away at her personal agency. An excellent piece of work and a strong starting point for a director and lead actress I suspect we’ll be seeing more of in the coming years.

Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Ninja Thyberg

Starring: Sofia Kappel, Revika Anne Reustle, Evelyn Claire, Chris Cock, Dana DeArmond, Kendra Spade, Jason Toler, John Strong, Lance Hart, Aiden Starr and Axel Braun


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