latest on decider

'Transformers: The Last Knight’ Rakes in $37.5 Million in Just Three Days

'Transformers: The Last Knight’ Rakes in $37.5 Million in Just Three Days

‘Orange Is the New Black’ Hacker The Dark Overlord Banished From Twitter

‘Orange Is the New Black’ Hacker The Dark Overlord Banished From...

‘Fear The Walking Dead’ Is Just As Good As The Original Series

‘Fear The Walking Dead’ Is Just As Good As The Original Series

My First Time... Watching 'Spaceballs'

My First Time... Watching 'Spaceballs'

Stephen Colbert Toasts Russia, Announces Presidential Bid On Russian TV

Stephen Colbert Toasts Russia, Announces Presidential Bid On Russian TV

'Playing House' Premiere Displays Emma and Maggie's Defensive Side: Recap

'Playing House' Premiere Displays Emma and Maggie's Defensive Side: Recap

Top 10 Sexiest, Dirtiest & Steamiest Movies on Netflix Right Now

Top 10 Sexiest, Dirtiest & Steamiest Movies on Netflix Right Now

Top 10 Sexiest, Dirtiest & Steamiest Movies on Netflix Right Now

Top 10 Sexiest, Dirtiest & Steamiest Movies on Netflix Right Now

'GLOW' Cast: Meet The Characters Of Netflix's Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling

'GLOW' Cast: Meet The Characters Of Netflix's Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling

What's Streaming On Netflix Tonight: 'GLOW' + More

What's Streaming On Netflix Tonight: 'GLOW' + More

Spend A Weekend With 'Spaced', The Ultimate Comedy Binge

Spend A Weekend With 'Spaced', The Ultimate Comedy Binge

'GLOW': 6 Things You Need To Know Before Streaming Netflix's Newest Comedy

'GLOW': 6 Things You Need To Know Before Streaming Netflix's Newest Comedy

Decider After Dark

‘Mostly Sunny’ Explores How Porn Star Sunny Leone Became One Of India’s Biggest Movie Stars

Where to Stream

Mostly Sunny

Sunny Leone is a household name. A former Penthouse Pet of the Year and the most Googled celebrity in India in 2014, Leone is the very definition of an “it” girl. At least, that’s what director Dilip Mehta will have us believe in his documentary Mostly Sunny (which is now available to stream on Netflix), which delves into the porn star’s life and improbable career transition from adult films to Bollywood. Mostly Sunny strives to explore Sunny Leone’s persona in its entirety, but it ultimately only delivers a superficial and highly calculated portrayal of her intersecting personal and professional lives that feels more phony than authentic.

A child of Indian immigrants, Leone grew up in Ontario, Canada, before moving to California. When she broke into adult entertainment in her teens, she hid it from her family knowing that her traditional parents and the close-knit Sikh Punjabi community would struggle to accept her career. Mostly Sunny tries to balance that abandonment with odd anecdotes—like how her brother used to sell autographed pictures of her to his classmates, or she and her now-husband starred in multiple pornographic videos together—to create an illusion of family, but the picture is unconvincing.

Sunny Leone is portrayed as a bubbly and carefree girl, but it’s obvious that her family’s disapproval has weighed down on her; in one of the more affecting scenes of the documentary, Leone breaks down while talking about her late mother whose alcoholism flared up after learning about Leone’s career. There’s no denying that she is a strong and savvy businesswoman, but the vulnerable and conflicted Leone makes for a deeper onscreen subject, though Mehta seems adamantly opposed to sinking his teeth into that side of her. Instead, we’re often shown an incomplete and contrived image of Leone that feels inauthentic to a story that could have explored and forced discussion about the intricacies of South Asian heritage with an unconventional career choice.

Mostly Sunny takes us from the sets of Los Angeles to the streets of Mumbai, where Leone is hailed as a goddess and treated with the respect she never received from the Indian communities back home. She states multiple times that she is proud of her choices and her past, though the shift to Bollywood seems to suggest otherwise. “When you have success, everything else is forgotten,” a marketing executive states mid-way through the documentary, and this through line drives the narrative forward as Leone begins transitioning her career away from porn and into Bollywood, seemingly hyper-aware of what a film career has to offer: fame and stability.

However, even though Bollywood features skimpy dresses and sexy item numbers, it’s an industry that relies on euphemisms and is still scandalized by an on-screen kiss. The dichotomy is somewhat backwards—a local journalist featured in the documentary posits that India still has Victorian and mostly negative views on sexuality despite being the land of the famed Kama Sutra, which forces viewers to wonder how audiences in India can unquestioningly accept Leone as a new leading lady. Pitting the ideas of India’s traditional values against the decision to cast a porn star in what is still considered “wholesome” film could have made for a richer conversation, but Mostly Sunny steers past the confrontation to just present it as fact.

Photo: Getty Images

Throughout this whole process, it’s unclear whether Leone’s film career will actually take off. Her Bollywood debut in Jackpot tanks, and getting roles after that proves difficult—it’s the one segment of Mostly Sunny that feels honest, allowing itself to breathe. Leone’s disappointment is relatable and her insistence on marching onward toward her next project gives her much-needed depth. But too little time is spent here to make an impact on the documentary as a whole.

Mostly Sunny closes on Leone wondering how she’ll explain her life’s work to her future children. It’s another glimpse at the vulnerable girl, though her words seem to contradict much of the confidence that had been built up in the previous 94 minutes. That’s the underlying problem with the documentary—it’s unsure of what story it’s trying to tell.

Mehta is doing important work in challenging traditional Indian culture via the lens of Leone’s career. But while it tees up plenty of interesting sociopolitical and intercultural topics, Mostly Sunny fails to connect on anything of substance.

Radhika Menon (@menonrad) is a TV-obsessed writer living in New York City. Her work has appeared on The TV Addict, Brown Girl Magazine, Breadcrumbs Mag and Syndicated Magazine. At any given moment, she can ruminate at length over Friday Night Lights, the University of Michigan, and the perfect slice of pizza. You may call her Rad.

Watch Mostly Sunny on Netflix

Decider

Get the Newsletter.

Sign up for news, stories, offers, and more, all from Decider's Webby Award nominated newsletter.

By clicking above you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

X