**1/2 (out of four)
“Why do you want to do porn?” What a question. For Angelina (Ashley Hinshaw of “Chronicle”), known as Cherry when she’s naked on film, the answer’s simple. She likes trying new things. She did a naked photo shoot once. No big deal.
The best thing about first-time director/co-writer Stephen Elliott’s “About Cherry” is its refusal to go overboard. Angelina doesn’t fall down a rabbit hole of dangerous people and drug addiction; she merely dates Francis (James Franco), who enjoys coke, maybe more than she knows.
In a subtle performance from Hinshaw, Angelina’s an empowered woman who doesn’t wear her troubles on the outside. She simply takes the opportunities she’s given and does what she can to protect herself. She leaves behind her alcoholic mom (Lili Taylor) and younger sister in Long Beach to move to San Francisco with her best friend Andrew (Dev Patel), who not surprisingly finds difficulty in sharing one bedroom and one bed with his gorgeous pal.
If only Elliott (a Chicago native) engaged the fractures in the relationships. The complications between the somewhat passive Angelina and Francis and Andrew barely exist until they’re major problems. The same goes for the developing issues between Angelina’s director (Heather Graham, now behind the porn cameras 15 years after “Boogie Nights”) and her girlfriend (Diane Farr).
Eventually, no one not in the porn industry can handle what their loved ones do when they’re not around. Co-written by adult actress Lorelei Lee, “About Cherry” deflects these feelings rather than tracking them and offers only a mild examination of people’s search for perfection in each other. The film comprises both usefully non-sexual business talk (yes, porn stars require contract negotiations) and steamy encounters, whether Angelina’s practicing in the mirror or flirting with Francis at a bar. That generates a sensual world existing on top of the real one, where many people work non-ideal jobs simply to pay the bills.
That’s provocative, even if “About Cherry” remains too tasteful to satisfyingly put the two worlds together.
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