Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Meandering Document Without Commentary, After Porn Ends Is Only Vaguely Engaging.

The Good: Decent perspectives, Good interviews
The Bad: Meanders, No punch or thesis, Some lousy camerawork, Some of the footage seems out-of-place, Underdeveloped stories
The Basics: After Porn Ends is initially engaging, but wanders off into a disorganized documentary that does not seem to have a statement to make.

Lately, I have been watching more documentaries than I usually do. That’s fine; I enjoy documentaries quite a bit and having access to a vast number of them encourages me to watch some that I might not otherwise give the time of day. In the case of After Porn Ends, I thought the concept was an intriguing one and in the hands of the a good documentarian, it could have been a great movie. While the subject of the film – male and female stars of adult films and how they have coped with life after they have left the adult film industry – is interesting, director Bryce Wagoner seems determined not to take a stance or make any sort of statement with the film.

As a result, After Porn Ends is a stark, but very true documentary that sticks to the form of the documentary; the subject of the documentary make statements and declarations without judgment, commentary or censor and the viewer is left to make their own decisions about what they are watching. In the case of After Porn Ends, the lack of commentary leads one to suspect that men who have had a life in the porn industry have a more consistently satisfying life during and after their adult entertainment work than their female counterparts. Beyond that, it is virtually impossible to make a statement that unifies the film: some of the women claim to have found god, some have become political activists, one is a recovering alcoholic widow struggling to raise her children in the middle of Utah, one of the least-profiled is a bounty hunter and bail bondswoman, and at least two went back into the business after they appeared in the documentary claiming they never would again.

And that’s the problem with After Porn Ends: it is all over the map. Had the film focused on, for example, Crissy Moran and her leaving the industry to become an evangelical Christian activist, the film would have a purpose, a story and a stronger sense of direction for viewers to come away informed and have an opinion on that one woman’s journey out of her personal experiences. Similarly, Asia Carrera seemed to have a compelling personal story and in the closing credits where the film encapsulates her entire battle with alcoholism following the footage that was shot for After Porn Ends and attributes it to her husband’s abrupt death, the viewer is left feeling like there was a whole movie’s worth of a compelling biography that was glossed over. Conversely, the men seem to have a pretty decent amount of exposure with one of them presenting the only real in-industry “bragging rights” style story. Almost entirely glossed over is one of the workers who left the industry and is now a pretty badass bounty hunter.

That said, what is in the film is interesting-enough. Most of the women talk about having really lousy boyfriends or speak candidly about the abuse which led them to the porn industry and the bad habits they developed there. But, the smartest of the subjects documented actually seemed to have a real handle on exactly what they were doing when they got into the industry and got out to pursue other things when they were done. So, even the opening statement about how the porn industry does not leave its stars with any usable skills is disproven multiple times throughout the movie (most ended up writing, directing, etc. through contacts they met or developed while working in hardcore porn).

Director Bryce Wagoner works hard not to make something that is particularly sensationalistic and for the most part, he succeeds. Clips from almost all of the stars from their hardcore careers are included and rather senselessly, additional, generic footage is interposed at random while the stars are talking and, apparently, Wagoner got bored with having them on screen. After Porn Ends is not an uninformative or unenjoyable documentary, but it is one that leaves the viewer wondering what the point of the film was, other than to state the obvious: porn stars are people, too, and when their career in the industry ends, it can be real hard for them. I suppose that makes adult movie workers like everyone else.

For other documentaries, please check out my reviews of:
Nantucket Film Festival’s Comedy Roundtable
The Captains
Definitely Maybe (DVD Audio) - Oasis


For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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  1. Recently watched this on Netflix. I guess I was more engaged by it than you were but I still enjoyed your review and perspective.

    I love the title and concept of your blog too... awesome.


    1. Thank you very much for the comment and reading!

      I enjoyed the documentary on a few levels, but the more I thought about it and how it had no real focus, it bugged me as a reviewer.

      Interesting concept, mediocre execution.