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Naked Ambition: An R-Rated Look at an X-Rated Industry
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by brianorndorf

"The science of smut"
2 stars

A renowned celebrity photographer, Michael Grecco yearned to create a coffee table book that would deviate from the comfortable norm. He desired to construct something artful and explosive, capturing a taboo industry in a way that would make it accessible to a larger audience. To realize his dream, Grecco turned to porn.

To achieve a grand tableau of faces and private spaces, Grecco traveled to the 2006 Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, which gathers a horde of dealers and porn stars into a grand ballroom to mingle with their adoring public. Setting up shop inside a hotel room, Grecco hustled a wide range of performers and inventors in and out of his makeshift studio, looking to capture industry professionals at their most contemplative and naturally sexy, without all the heavily rehearsed baggage that comes with smut shoots. Over the course of three days, Grecco shot hundreds of bodies, yet his curiosity didn’t stop with a snap of a camera. Some of these ladies required a closer inspection.

I’m not exactly sure what “Naked Ambition” is supposed to represent to the home viewer. It’s a documentary of the Las Vegas porn experience and a companion piece to Grecco’s book, revealing how some of the impromptu photos were actually achieved. It’s a schizophrenic feature that cartwheels through the convention experience, showcasing the hopes and dreams of the stars in play, most notably Sunny Lane and Joanna Angel, who allow Grecco’s cameras to pry further into their past as they both vie for “Best New Starlet” at the upcoming AVN Awards.

Charming women with unique sex appeal, Angel and Lane clarify their journey into porn; it’s a tale of bodily surprise turned into profit, with both women looking forward to a long career in the sex industry. Their tales of ambition feel like filler for the documentary, which has more fun on the Expo floor, meeting and greeting the entrepreneurs who build wild sex toys and the admirers who often endure endless lines to snatch face time with their masturbation fantasies. The real story is found here, in that thin line between fan and famous. The effort to embellish the photo subjects beyond push-up bras and heavy make-up is understandable, but it tends to distract from the business at hand, taking time away from Grecco and his photo project. The documentary’s sense of respect also seems like a put-on to keep the talent at ease, with Grecco’s anxious narration comparing porn to punk rock and the very concept of self-expression. It’s laid on too thick.

While the first two acts concern hotel room introductions and poses with a variety of performers and fetishists (along with detailed, artful snaps of sex toys), the final push is made at the AVN Awards, where Grecco found himself frantically trying to finish his book while fulfilling his duty as house photographer. The ending seems more of a commercial for the AVN universe than paying off a story of diverse personalities, yet it feels like business as usual for a documentary that never really communicates anything but promotion. There’s plenty of nudity, famous porn faces (don’t worry, Ron Jeremy shows up), and a few respectable stories, but an overall arc of an idea with all this siliconed commotion? It never arrives.

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originally posted: 04/26/10 23:31:13
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User Comments

9/30/12 VLTampa Interesting story based on real people. 4 stars
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  N/A (R)
  DVD: 20-Apr-2010



Directed by
  Michael Grecco

Written by
  Charles Holland

  Michael Grecco
  Sunny Lane
  Joanna Angel

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