Movie Review - Nymphomaniac: Volume II

Charlotte Gainsbourg plays Joe, a woman who is a sex addict. She tells her life story and sexual experiences to Seligman, played by Stellan Skarsgård. Joe is a former secretary who isn't very educated. Seligman is the opposite. He's very educated and cultured. He's also the opposite of a sex addict. He's asexual, a 60-year-old virgin. He claims to be disinterested as Joe tells him all the dirty sex stories from her past and present. Written and directed by Lars Von Trier, the film operates like episodic television. It started with Nymphomaniac: Volume I. This film picks up immediately where the previous leaves off with Joe telling chapters of her life. Joe tells Seligman about her marriage to her first love Jerôme. Joe tells about her forced counseling. Joe finally tells about her job that led to her meeting Seligman.

I'm not sure sex addiction is a real thing, but I think Von Trier's film makes a better case than Steve McQueen's Shame. How it does so is through the introduction of the character played by Jamie Bell. Bell's character is a sadomasochist who reveals that Joe is also a sadomasochist.

The problem with Shame is that I never believed that the main character's sexuality was a problem in that it wasn't truly interfering with his ability to function in the world like pay bills or obey decency laws. With Nymphomaniac: Volume II, Joe, the protagonist, is put into situations, which show how her sexuality is interfering with her ability to function in the world.

The biggest example is with Joe's son. Joe has a baby with her first love, Jerôme, played by Shia LaBeouf. She names her baby Marcel. Joe and Jerôme briefly separate, but it seems like they share custody. One night, Joe runs off to be with Bell's character and his sadomasochism, leaving Marcel all alone as a toddler in her apartment. If that's not an indication of sex addiction, I don't know what is.

Sadly, I wasn't convinced was by this film's final act. Chapter 8 has Joe getting a job with an extortionist named "L," played by Willem Dafoe. The job allows her to exact on someone else the abuse done to her. It also allows her to continue in her sadomasochism, but the one question, and the one avenue completely ignored, is pornography. Von Trier never answers why Joe never does porn. If she needed a job, why go to this extortionist? Why not go into porn?

The very, very ending, meaning the final shot, is horrible. It's ridiculous and not in the way that puts Joe's head in between two large black cocks, a joke Von Trier does here that the Farrelly brothers did in Hall Pass (2011). The ending is so bad that it almost invalidates all that came before and proves to me that the framework of Joe talking to Seligman was not needed.

Two Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains graphic sex and full-frontal nudity.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 3 mins.


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