Nymphomaniac started off with an interesting premise. In the midst of all the passionless sexcapades is a sense of humor. Female sexuality is uncommonly discussed head-on without turning to a gratuitous skin flick.
However as the minutes pass by the film drags itself through non-linear flashbacks paired with assumed references to art and literature, which are no more than intellectual babbles.
Adult Joe cherry picks accounts from her life told in chapters that are inspired by items in Seligman’s room, so you’re not actually sure whether the stories are real or she’s just manipulating him. The momentum stops dead on its tracks when you’re taken back to her room, so it becomes repetitive and dull.
Stellan Skarsgard is good but the rest of the cast were either forgettable or bland. Stacy Martin gave an empty performance. Shia LeBeouf’s lapsing accent is ridiculous, along with Uma Thurman who has a far-fetched character. At least Daniel Defoe is decent enough to liven things up a bit. The second volume benefited from Charlotte Gainsbourg as she gave a far better performance as the adult Joe, but she can’t save the film.
Things get worse as you’re handed an overplotted Volume 2. The film continues to milk nymphomania for shock value but still fails even as a titillating piece. The media hyped sex scenes are mechanical and boring that you might as well be watching a free clip from Pornhub.
As the film ends, the narrative loses steam and you’re given a generic insight into this whole meandering mess. Seligman theorizes that all of it is just self-loathing caused by patriarchy, but we’ll never really know. The film finishes with an ambiguous ending that says females are just crazy and undecipherable.
Nymphomaniac Vol 1 and 2
Nymphomaniac is a desperately provocative, pretentious, and meandering mess that fails both as an art film and erotic character study.