For the film, Anderson interviews 16 female porn stars — including Alexis Texas, Asphyxia Noir and other obviously invented names — about what got them into the business, what they get from it, and what misconceptions they’d like to clear up. In other words, she gives them the opportunity to appear human. In doing so, they reveal common threads that tie so many of them together, from initially being clueless about sex and being raised in religious homes, to less-surprising links, such as having divorced parents.
“There’s no way to tell [your parents]” that you’re getting into the skin-flick biz, says Jesse Jane, a Moore High School grad who notes she gave up a full ride to the University of Oklahoma’s meteorology program for a triple-X career.
Most interesting of all the interviews isn’t from a porn star at all, but an agent, who points out that by and large, the performers:
• are not failed actresses,
• have been promiscuous all their lives,
• are more attention addicts than sex addicts,
• should be saving money for therapy after the work dries up, and
• have “a little of their soul disappear” each time they shoot a scene.
A celebrity and fashion photographer by trade, Anderson makes her subjects look prettier than any other director they’ve worked with would. Shooting in beautiful black and white tends to do that, lending an artistic air of class and tastefulness to an examination of an industry void of these elements.
But in the back half, Aroused suddenly switches to color and includes clips of the women’s work. You may not be prepared for the abrupt jolt in tone. For all the work she does in humanizing her subjects in the first half, Anderson undoes much of that by showing the sordid images she heretofore avoided. I don’t think she meant to; it’s a case of too much, too soon. —Rod Lott
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