news ‘Pleasure’ Trailer: The Controversial Festival Hit About the Porn Industry Finally Arrives as Unrated Cut

Ninja Thyberg’s in-your-face and unapologetic feature debut “Pleasure” wowed the virtual Sundance Film Festival in 2021 — but thankfully, a new audience gets to finally discover the film (more than a year later) on a big screen.

A raw portrayal of the porn industry and its effects on all participants, the film follows a 20-year-old woman named Linnéa (newcomer Sofia Kappel), who arrives from Sweden to Los Angeles. It’s in the glittering land of Hollywood that she assumes the identity of Bella Cherry, hoping to become an international adult movie star, but that path to fame comes with a slew of compromises and anguishes. As Bella starts to rise up in the industry, the stakes, too, are raised, and some of her shoots become increasingly harrowing, and friends and lines of trust get blurred in the process.

A coolly detached but nevertheless ballsy evisceration of the adult film industry, the movie is based on Thyberg’s own 2013 short of the same name. In that film, a young actress is asked to perform a double anal penetration scene to save her job. The feature film version features no shortage of challenging scenes.

Zelda Morrison, Evelyn Claire, Chris Cock, Kendra Spade, and Dana DeArmond round out the ensemble cast; both Morrison and director Thyberg were nominated at the 2022 Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Long before the virtual Sundance premiere, “Pleasure” was accepted for the 2020 Cannes Film Festival that never was. “Pleasure” was initially acquired by A24 out of Sundance, with the distributor announcing that it would release the full uncensored version, as well as an R-rated cut, theatrically in 2021. A24 later parted ways with the film over its theatrical cut, with Neon making moves to scoop up the film and deliver it uncensored to audiences.

“I’m happy and relieved that my debut and life’s work is in the hands of Neon who dare to launch the film with my original vision, raw and uncut, to the American audience,” Thyberg told press at the time.

Neon added, “We are thrilled to be working with Ninja on this incredible achievement and look forward to releasing it, in the director’s vision, as intended.”

IndieWire’s David Ehlrich wrote in his review that while the film is “sometimes glossy for its own sake,” “Pleasure” turns the “candied porn veneer” on its head to examine the line between consent and coercion, pleasure and pain.

“The most instructive piece of advice Bella gets is to ‘enjoy what she does’ so that people at home will believe her enthusiasm, but what the man coaching her either doesn’t understand or understands all too well is that he’s also conditioning her to enjoy what she doesn’t,” Ehlrich wrote. “An industry that rewards its female performers for voicing their pleasure is an industry that punishes its female performers for voicing anything else…Less interested in giving pleasure than in taking it back, Thyberg’s film might end on an ambiguous note, but few movies have ever been so eager to bare the simple truth of those words.”

“Pleasure” opens in New York and LA on May 13. Watch the trailer below.
 
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