‘Pleasure’ Review

Ninja Thyberg’s directorial debut is a raw and visceral look at the adult industry through the eyes of the female performer.

CREDIT: Neon

8.5/10

The world of the adult entertainment industry is not the most manageable space to exist inside. Pornography has been wildly accessible to everyone once the age of internet porn became so prevalent in our modern society. Luckily, the world of porn has been following in a more independent view since the boom of OnlyFans. Sadly, it has not always been like this with a history of on-set abuse, predatory behavior, and websites not being as controlled as they should. Many documentaries have tried but failed to provide a look into the industry without demonizing the profession of sex work. That is where Ninja Thyberg’s highly anticipated feature debut Pleasure comes in to give much-needed insight into the industry.

Pleasure has had quite the journey to the silver screen since being selected to screen at Cannes Film Festival in 2020. The film would then make its premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. The film’s distribution rights were purchased by A24 soon after its premiere at Sundance. After a period of silence throughout last year, news broke that the film had been sold to Neon instead. It seems that A24 tried to cut down Ninja Thyberg’s vision to an R-rated cut of the film compared to the unrated cut Neon is distributing. Now, on a limited release run through the United States Pleasure can finally be seen exactly as Ninja Thyberg intended.

In Pleasure, we follow the journey of an up-and-coming Swedish adult entertainment actress Bella Cherry (Sofia Kappel), who moves from Sweden to the US in hopes of becoming the next big porn star. The film also stars Revika Reustle, Evelyn Claire, Chris Cock, Dana DeArmond, Kendra Spade, and Jason Toler. Bella lives in a model house with her fellow models who she warms up to become friends. Bella is set on working and does not want to spend much time networking or making friends even though that is what you need to do to make it in her industry. Life inside of the industry becomes complicated as she starts to lose roles due to her hesitancy to do fewer vanilla genres of porn like experimenting with anal or hardcore sex. Lines begin to be blurred as boundaries get pushed and the industry’s manipulation is felt on her journey to become the best in the porn industry.

Pleasure is an effective examination of the adult entertainment industry for the variety of women who suffer at the hands of a predatory workplace environment. Ninja Thyberg expertly directs a captivating and profound film out of her genius script that destroys the male-dominated fantasy of porn. The use of the camera as a tool to turn the mirror back to the audience is an exemplary motif that never becomes redundant. Kappel is a star in the making as she embodies her role as Bella Cherry. The effectiveness of Pleasure is also found in its refusal to sugarcoat what life in the industry is like. Its portrayal of sexual assault and manipulation is brutal but never to the point of exploitation. The film’s cinematography is powerful through its use of shaky camera movements and naturalistic lighting. Ninja Thyberg has arrived as one of cinema’s most effective voices working right now.

Watch Pleasure in theaters nationwide.

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