Pleasure film

Pleasure is the standout movie about the LA porn industry that’s wowed critics and is set to be the most shocking film of the year

Posted by for Film

Pleasure premiered at Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim and is already one of the most anticipated films to watch this year. Here’s everything you need to know about it. 

When it comes to 2022’s cinema offerings, we’ve already had a feast of movie delights so far this year – and we’re set for months of much more.

As well as Oscar-nominated The Eyes Of Tammy Faye; Jennifer Lopez’s return to romcoms in Marry Me; and coming-of-age drama Belfast, we’re also still eagerly awaiting Sandra Bullock’s The Lost City, Viking epic The Northman and, of course, Downton Abbey: A New Era at the end of this month.

One film has certainly gotten critics talking as of late, though, and that’s Pleasure. The movie initially premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2020 and is now set to be making its way to cinemas in time for summer.

The upcoming drama explores the Los Angeles porn industry through the eyes of one newcomer, Bella Cherry, who is played by Sofia Kappel.  

Pleasure movie
Sofia Kappel plays Bella Cherry in Pleasure.

It’s Kappel’s feature acting debut and is based on director Ninja Thyberg’s 2013 short film of the same title. The premise is relatively simple: Cherry moves from her small town in Sweden to LA to pursue an adult film career and become a sought-after porn star.

As the synopsis reads, Bella is a “strong, self-confident and determined” woman who “embarks on a mission to become the best at any cost”.

When it premiered last year to select critics, the fanfare was clear to see:

Many lauded the film for its depiction of a topic that is rarely spoken about on the big screen, while others commended Kappel’s standout performance as Cherry:

Variety has hailed the movie for its exploration of the porn industry. They said: “No film has ever shown just how raw, shocking and disturbing porn can be quite like Ninja Thyberg’s Pleasure.” 

Speaking at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival last year, Thyberg expressed the importance of being a female director of a film with such a sensitive premise at its core. She explained: “That’s how the whole concept of a ‘whore’ is constructed – by putting the shame of your own sexuality on women, calling them ‘sinful’.

“Quite early in my life I realised I am living in a man’s world, where most things are told from a male perspective. By telling a story about this woman, by turning it around, I felt I could really make a point.”

Speaking of her motivations to put the American porn industry under the microscope in Pleasure, she went on to add: “One goal is for people to never be able to watch porn the same way again.” 

Pleasure movie
Kappel plays Bella Cherry, an aspiring porn actor who moves from Sweden to L.A.

Authenticity is one thing that has continually drawn praise for this film, not least because majority of the cast are actually adult film actors themselves. Thyberg herself spent a lot of time on the sets of these movies and uses many of the harrowing experiences she saw as the basis of some of the darker plotlines in Pleasure.

If the trailer’s anything to go by, the movie is set to interrogate the industry, its treatment of women and the lesser-known corners of sex work in an enlightening way. In the trailer, we see Cherry simply state that she “wants to be the best”.

And interspersed with the glamour of her everyday filming, we get a glimpse of the gritty perseverance and self-reflection that Cherry undergoes in the film. In one more shocking scene, she negotiates a new role and asks if she can work without agents and for free.

Watch the trailer for yourself here: 

Pleasure is set to be released in UK cinemas on 17 June.

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Images: Festival De Cannes; Neon

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