Angelina (Ashley Hinshaw) is a beautiful young woman who is tired of doing crap jobs and holding her drunk mom's hair back while she vomits in the toilet. Per the suggestion of a creep boyfriend, she finds out she can make hundreds of dollars doing topless photo shoots. Appearing in porn is a natural progression from topless pics, so Angelina is lured to take the next big step. After all, the money is easy!
There is a great scene where Angelina is getting interviewed at her first porn film studio. A very approachable attractive woman in casual, comfy clothes asks her in the most friendly, open manner, "So how do you feel about girls?" "Um... I like them?" "Have you ever had sex with a girl?" (laughing and smiling, looking embarrassed) "Uh... you move really fast..." You could replace just about any moment of the interview with things like, "Are you familiar with using Microsoft Excel?"... "No, but I'd be willing to learn!" Brilliant and strange.
Heather Graham is introduced as Margaret, a porn director who gently and encouragingly talks her actresses through themed scenes. Her presence instantly changes the vibe of the film and suddenly makes you pay attention. "You're a beautiful, hot, gorgeous girl, and you like attention, right?... Why don't you spread your legs and give us something to look at while we talk..." The problem here is that Margaret instantly becomes the most interesting character in the film. She's a porn director, and got into the business as an actor. It is implied that that is a natural progression, and everyone is empowered and supportive and yay and stuff. But Margaret's profession has taken a toll on her power-lesbian relationship with a successful real estate agent. It is only when Heather Graham is on screen that the plot leaves Angelina, and it is almost too bad when the story veers back to the sweet but not very interesting main character.
Curiously, the filmmakers sometimes treat the film itself as a tease of porn. Angelina practices her seductive moves in front of a wall mirror in her bedroom, our perspective is as though we were peeking through her partially opened door. In another, Heather Graham's character has angry sex with her girlfriend, a moment that is jarringly hotter than any of the staged moments. Apparently the filmmakers themselves were insiders in the porn industry, so conscious touches like these add an extra layer.
But unfortunately, the plot is bogged down by token male characters who are a bit cliched. James Franco plays a well-dressed lawyer with terrible grooming who meets and picks up Angelina in a strip club where she works as a waitress. He is all excited about dating a porn star until, well, you know, she has sex with men. Then he loses his shit with jealously. Then there is poor Dev Patel who is stuck in a poorly defined role where he first appears to be Angelina's gay BFF, but then no, he's straight and in love with her and... shocker... doesn't approve of her porn either! Well, so what?
There is an interesting story to be had about the porn industry in About Cherry, and it seems like the filmmakers indeed do know what they are talking about. It is also refreshing to have a someone clear-eyed view of the whole business, as it really only judges the seemingly few sleazebags that Angelina encounters, as well as the people who don't approve of what she does. Does this safe, supportive porn sanctuary really exist? Tighten up the plot, because that is a movie that would be worth watching.