Capsule reviews for Sept. 21

About Cherry

This coming-of-age story about sexual awakening isn’t as provocative or insightful as it could have been. It follows Angelica (Ashley Hinshaw), a troubled teenager from Los Angeles, who moves to San Francisco, where she is introduced into the world of adult entertainment as she juggles relationships with her supportive best friend (Dev Patel), her drug-addicted lawyer boyfriend (James Franco), and the adult-film director (Heather Graham) who tries to make Angelica a star. The film marks the directorial debut of author Stephen Elliott, who shows promise with a gritty visual depiction of the Bay Area. But despite Hinshaw’s audacious performance, the characters remain at an emotional distance. (Rated R, 102 minutes).


Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel

Fashion aficionados aren’t the only viewers who can appreciate this energetic documentary about the life of Vreeland, who was a fashion editor for decades at Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue before becoming a full-time consultant for historical collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she worked into her 80s. The film, directed by granddaughter-in-law Lisa Immordino Vreeland, offers an intimate glimpse into Vreeland’s trendsetting influence and her outspoken nature through an impressive array of interviews and archival footage. It’s a mostly even-handed approach that allows the film to practically assume the feisty personality of its subject while also providing an overview of 20th century fashion. (Rated PG-13, 86 minutes).


How to Survive a Plague

There’s more than a history lesson to be found in this powerful yet heartbreaking documentary about the courageous work of two grassroots gay-rights groups during the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s who broke through pharmaceutical barriers and bureaucratic red tape to push for the first steps toward treating the deadly virus. Rookie director David France, who was a journalist covering the issues at the time, assembled the film from hours of mostly amateur archival footage. The result is compelling as a recent historical document, but also has contemporary resonance in its depiction of the influence of activism on social causes. (Not rated, 109 minutes).


17 Girls

There’s an unsettling lack of moral outrage at the title characters in this French drama, inspired by a true story (which happened in Massachusetts), that follows 17 teenagers at a small-town high school who agree to become pregnant simultaneously as a misguided demonstration of rebellion and solidarity, throwing the entire town into turmoil. Sibling filmmakers Delphine and Muriel Coulin, with the help of a sharp cast of unheralded young actresses, take an observant and even-handed sociopolitical perspective while also getting inside the impetuous minds of their characters. It’s a subtle cautionary tale that also serves as an insightful if exaggerated examination of contemporary adolescence. (Not rated, 86 minutes).


You May Not Kiss the Bride

The most noteworthy item in this dim-witted screwball comedy is the presence of former “American Idol” runner-up Katharine McPhee as — get this — the daughter of a Croatian crime boss (Ken Davitian) who is forced into a marriage with a pet photographer (Dave Annable) in order to keep her visa. Then she is kidnapped while being chased by overzealous immigration agents during their honeymoon in the tropics. The low-brow script from director Rob Hedden leads the characters through one far-fetched scenario after another with few laughs along the way. But at least the scenery is nice. The cast includes Rob Schneider, Mena Suvari and Kathy Bates. (Rated PG-13, 96 minutes).