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Sofia Kappel appears in <i>Pleasure</i> by Ninja Thyberg, an official selection of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Movie Reviews

[Sundance ’21] ‘Pleasure’ review: Sofia Kappel shines in female driven story about the adult film industry

Amazing, thoughtful, and provocative.

WARNING! PLEASURE DEALS WITH EXPLICIT CONTENT THAT IS DISCUSSED IN THIS REVIEW

Pleasure gets off to an incredibly graphic scene. While the screen is completely black, hardcore sex can be heard in the background. It is neither titillating nor romantic, but it does prepare the audience for what they are about to see. Making its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, the movie is an uninhibited look at the adult film world.

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Director Ninja Thyberg has directed an emotionally powerful movie. What makes this especially impressive is the plot sounds so visceral on the surface. Bella Cherry (Sofia Kappel) has moved to Los Angeles to become the next big porn star. It does not take long for her to realize it is not as easy as she thought. She uses her instincts to make it in a cutthroat industry.

Pleasure can be a difficult watch. Most of the sex scenes are intense to the point of being unwatchable. They range from straight up porn to more sexually violent moments. Thyberg’s film is not the first to deal with the adult industry. Sex has never been handled this way, however. Other movies either use it for comedy or try to make the act as unsexy as possible. 

The film is definitely not played for comedy. While the sex is never romanticized, it is not as clinical as other films. Pleasure makes each act in the movie a moment of degradation and disgust. Audiences are drawn into the scenes even while they want to look away. One way Pleasure does this is using first person point of view camera shots. Thyberg often puts the viewer in Bella’s position. It is in these moments, the film reaches its emotional heights. The sex has been given an emotional weight not usually seen in film.

[Sundance '21] 'Pleasure' review: Sofia Kappel shines in female driven story about the adult film industry

Kappel is fantastic in the role as the would be porn starlet. The movie calls for a wide range of emotions from sheer joy to utter terror. Kappel navigates its situation magnificently. She brings a natural quality to the fake world of Pleasure. There is a mysterious quality she posses from when she is first introduced. The audience will be engrossed by her character as she learns and grows.

The character arc in Pleasure is well written. It is not just a steady incline. Bella has to go through the peaks and valleys of the choices she has made. This makes for a very captivating story as it will keep audiences guessing. Thyberg also does a great job of making sure not to leave any plot threads hanging. Some audiences will not like how open ended the ending is.

The film tackles tough issues. Gender inequality, race relations, friendship are all themes of the movie. The change in Bella is excellent. It is a gradual change that is based on experiences she faces during Pleasure. The movie also seems to be drawing a parallel between the difficulties women face in porn versus what they face in mainstream entertainment.  It is also refreshing to see the sex industry told from the female perspective.

Continue to check out AIPT for our ongoing coverage of the Sundance Film Festival. Tickets and a full lineup can be found here.

pleasure
[Sundance ’21] ‘Pleasure’ review: Sofia Kappel shines in female driven story about the adult film industry
Pleasure
Great acting and storytelling make this emotionally intense film a must see. Some moments are intentionally difficult to watch.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
Kappel is fantastic in a role that requires complete committment
Well written story and character arc
Handling of the sex scenes is given maximum emotional weight
The ending may too aburpt for some
9
Great

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