Movie Review: Pleasure
'Pleasure' offers an explicit and brutally honest look inside the porn industry.
By Sal LoCicero | January 9th, 2022
With award season on its way, many new and original features are making their way into some significant categories this year. One of the award ceremonies is acknowledging a brand new artist. Director Ninja Thyberg is nominated for Best Director at the 2022 Film Independent Spirit Awards, for her directorial debut titled ‘Pleasure’. Based off of the short film, with the same title, we follow a 19 year old swedish girl who is looking for a career in pornography, as she makes her way into the industry and sees the behind the scenes process, she challenges herself so she can become the next biggest porn star.
Originally distributed by A24; the company behind ‘Moonlight', ‘Uncut Gems’, ‘Hereditary’, and much more, Ninja Thyberg’s feature takes a raw, graphic, and (somewhat) interesting look at the porn industry. Thyberg captures aspects of Bella's (Sofia Kappel) process into porn like a documentary, which is what adds to the rawness here. There are no shortcuts that are taken to make certain scenes easier to watch, that is not how this particular movie works. The filmmaker shares the unseen and the unpleasant experience that our main character goes through in order to earn the fame that she wants, and It will make you sad and angry at times.
There is some commentary that Thyberg is trying to convey, one of them being about the treatment of women in the industry. As Bella goes through her porn shoots, she gets nervous and uncomfortable, she has her co-stars and her crew to help her through it as they repeat to her about how it’s all about if she is comfortable portraying the acts. Once she begins to push herself by acting in hardcore level porn, she questions what it is that she is there for. The violent sexual physicality that goes into that type of pornography changes her views towards this career, towards the producers, and the men of the business. Thyberg’s writing and directing expresses what this business does to women and makes them out to be.
What the filmmaker wants to create is a documentary-like feature about the porn industry that takes a turn. The harsh and explicit reality depicted will have the viewer questioning a lot that goes. You start to wonder why it is that Bella wants to be apart of this sexually explicit journey, what is it about being a young woman that leads them into pornography, is it to make money to survive or is it because of fame? Those are some of the questions that give you things to ask and think about.
The performances are very good, especially by Sofia Kappel. Her performance adds quite a lot to her character and her vague subplot. The cinematography is very accurate to the subject matter, it’s not shot in any sort of cinematic way, it feels and looks very different than anything we are used to seeing.
‘Pleasure’ is now distributed by NEON; the company behind ‘Titane’, ‘Pig’ ‘The Worst Person In The World’, ‘Portrait Of A Lady On Fire’, and the Academy Award Winner 'Parasite’. NEON is really standing out in Hollywood. They’re taking the risks that most studios try not to indulge themselves in. As of now ‘Pleasure’ has not been given a rating from the MPA, but if it does receive a rating, it would be the second movie distributed by NEON to receive an NC-17. The studios first NC-17 movie was 2018’s ‘This One’s for the Ladies’.
There is no doubt that ‘Pleasure’ will be one of the most polarizing films of this year. Some will appreciate what Ninja Thyberg did, but others will not be fond of what ‘Pleasure’ will have in store. If you can handle some of the film’s graphically explicit scenes and its mature nature, then you should check this out whenever you get the chance. Ninja Thyberg is off to a great start in her career.