Film Review — Pleasure (2021)
A determined and ambitious young Swedish woman goes to extreme lengths to become a star in LA’s cutthroat porn scene.
From the sharply contrasting first sights and sounds of Ninja Thyberg’s shocking debut picture, it’s immediately obvious that this isn’t going to be an experience in accordance with its title. Pleasure may very well go down as the least sexy film about sex ever made, something I imagine will be taken as a major compliment by the people responsible for making it.
Thyberg expands on her award-winning short of the same name, maintaining the same focus on themes of ruination in the ruthless pursuit of power. The industry’s darker side is on full and extremely graphic display as young women do whatever they can to get ahead, with the intrusive glare of a camera ever present.
The vast majority of Pleasure feels uncomfortably like a behind-the-scenes documentary, a feeling bolstered by the involvement of many of the industry’s most well-known faces. Quite why they chose to participate is a mystery as this doesn’t exactly show their line of work in the most flattering light. A case of any publicity is good publicity? Or does Mark Spiegler — sharing an uncomfortable resemblance to Harvey Weinstein — really care about revealing the reality of an industry he helped build?
This isn’t an easy watch. Several moments, including one particularly harrowing scene at the hour mark, might be forever etched in memory as effectively as the nastiest horror film.
And yet somehow Thyberg and her team, notably including cinematographer Sophie Winqvist Loggins, and star Sofia Kappel — remarkably in her first acting credit of any kind —find real beauty amidst the overly-lit fabricated bedrooms. This isn’t a condemnation, nor is it a celebration, merely a warts-and-all depiction of a difficult career path that many will continue to pursue, even with full knowledge of its cruel and dehumanising truths.
If you haven’t already, consider hitting that follow button for more reviews and crap opinions on film. It doesn’t cost anything and will give me that essential dopamine hit and motivation to keep writing. But mostly the dopamine.
You can also find me on Letterboxd where I try (and mostly fail) to keep up with the kids and their witty meme reviews. You know the kind.