SUNDANCE REVIEW – “Pleasure”
One of my favorite things about attending film festivals, whether its in person or virtual, is when I’m able to sit down for films that I have absolutely zero expectations for and will for the duration of its running time be completely immersed within a world and narrative that I didn’t expect to fully invest in. Pleasure is absolutely one of those unexpected Sundance finds for me, and I am so happy that I watched it on a whim. Pleasure follows 20-year-old Jessica (Sofia Kappel) as she leaves her small town in Sweden and moves to L.A. in attempt to make it big in the porn industry. While she didn’t necessarily expect this to be an easy journey for her, the road ahead brings out some unexpected challenges as she faces a male-dominated and incredibly toxic industry.
Directed by Ninja Thyberg in her directorial debut, Pleasure is an absolutely astonishing and confident first-feature. The subject matter is bound to undoubtedly leave a lot of people unsettled, but Thyberg makes sure to never make the content feel fetishized or exploitative. From start to finish, she has a genuine voice and message behind the camera. It isn’t without some shocking imagery – but it’s all in service of the narrative. We’ve heard a lot about the importance of the feminine touch behind the camera. And Pleasure is the kind of the film that reminds us about how much it’s needed when it comes to subject matter like this.
Speaking of debuts, Sofia Kappel delivers an absolutely stunning and charismatic first performance. From the moment she arrives on screen to the second the film closes out, she carries it completely and sells you on why you should root for her character. She’s sympathetic without ever feeling pitiful – she’s a strong, intelligent and thoughtful woman who has to deal with genuinely shitty people in her industry. It’s a tough balancing act that Kappel has to pull off, but she accomplishes it beautifully and is a big reason why Pleasure is one of the highlights of the festival in my eyes.