Tag Archives: Christian Slater

Mr. Robot Season 4 (2019) Review

Mr. Robot - Season 4

Mr. Robot Season 4

Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson
Carly Chaikin as Darlene Alderson
Portia Doubleday as Angela Moss
Martin Wallström as Tyrell Wellick
Christian Slater as Mr. Robot
Michael Cristofer as Phillip Price
Grace Gummer as Dominique “Dom” DiPierro
BD Wong as Whiterose
Elliot Villar as Fernando Vera
Ashlie Atkinson as Janice
Creator: Sam Esmail

Set during the 2015 Christmas holiday, the fast-paced season will be one filled with answers, hacking and blood. Elliot (Rami Malek) and Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) are getting back to work and down a path that could prove endless. But have they crossed a line?

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Mr. Robot was already a fantastic show, Season 1 was a great start, Season 2 was solid while having its issues, and Season 3 took the show to new heights. However, much of how a show is eventually perceived depends on how well it finalises its story and characters at the end. With that being said, Season 4 is not only possibly the best season of the whole show, it’s one of the most memorable and satisfying conclusions I’ve seen to a TV show.

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It goes without saying, but there is a spoiler warning for the previous seasons leading up to this one in this review. An interesting aspect to note is that the whole show is stuck in 2015, this season picks up with having only advanced to just before Christmas 2015. As America recovers from the Five/Nine Hack, the focus of the narrative shifts to a somewhat heroic Elliot as he sets his sights on taking down Whiterose and her Dark Army. The show ups its game to deliver one very eventful season, one that raises the stakes for every character whilst delivering some of the best television in recent years. Season 4 really does feels like a true send-up of the first season everyone fell in love with, and everything that first season promised the show could be is what the final season is. Mr. Robot’s final season can be best described as incredibly emotional and heartbreaking; the opening moments of its first episode really does establish how much of a gut punch the whole season is. Season 4 runs for 13 episodes, making it the longest in the show’s history, and unlike say season 2, its time is not put to waste. I blasted through the episodes back-to-back, it was incredibly riveting and intense, even the slower paced episodes worked appropriately for the story and characters. As said previously, the main drive of this season is Mr. Robot taking down Whiterose, however there’s also plenty of other things happening at the same time. For example, there are episodes that focus heavily on the relationship between Elliot and Mr. Robot, which shows them more closely aligned in their goals compared to the past couple of seasons. This new dynamic is interesting and the writing definitely takes advantage of that, for instance, the narration to the audience that was done by Elliot is mostly done by Mr. Robot in this season. Additionally, as the season progresses, a lot of the sub-plots from the past and present interweave with Elliot’s journey. I won’t give too much away for fear of spoilers but suffice to say the final few episodes turn everything we’ve learnt up until this point completely on its head, delivering a shocking couple of plot twists to round out a thrilling and intense final season. Even on its last season, there are plenty of surprises that a lot of audiences won’t have expected. These plot twists are so good that it actually paints the entirety of Mr Robot’s early seasons in a completely different shade and I’m sure this will be a show that will be completely different to watch a second time through.

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The acting from everyone as usual is fantastic. Rami Malek and Christian Slater remain as brilliant as ever, and the change in their dynamic will be a treat for many. Rami Malek has always owned his role as Elliot Alderson but in this season in particular, he really shows his diversity and range with an absolutely stunning performance. There is particularly one episode (if you watch the episode you already know which one) in which Elliot learns something significant, and Malek’s performance is nothing short of spectacular and heartbreaking. This season also gives Christian Slater a lot more material than he has had since the first season. Slater is excellent in the role of Mr Robot, and his shift in character this season makes him much more intriguing than ever before. Many of the other actors playing the major roles of Price, Whiterose, Darlene and Dom all bring their A-game here and are given enough screen time to really flesh out their characters. Some characters get more attention than others, for example I would’ve liked to have seen more of Tyrell Wellick, but on the whole everyone’s stories were handled well, and as usual they were performed greatly. Outside of the main cast, one of the standout performers was Elliot Villar as the character of Vera. Vera had a small supporting role in the first season before he disappears from much of the show, only to return for this season. While he has a smaller role in this season, he’s great in his scenes, and especially shines in one particularly significant episode.

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All 13 episodes of this season are excellently directed by Sam Esmail, Mr Robot is on a technical level is in a league of its own when it comes to tv shows. The cinematography and visuals remain outstanding, and the sound design and score are top notch as ever, with composer Mac Quayle as usual somehow managing to top his work with every season. In its third and fourth seasons, the show has taken its stylistic ambitions to new heights. In season 3 it has a whole episode that was filmed and edited to seem as if it was taking place in a long, continuous single shot that darted and weaved in and around a massive skyscraper. I won’t go into season four’s own stylistic achievement of filmmaking, but just know that it only features two lines in the entire episode, and considering the stuff that happens in that particular episode, it’s incredibly impressive that that pulled it off.

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Mr. Robot’s fourth and final season is nothing short of outstanding, not only managing to produce its best season yet, but also able to wrap up the storylines and characters in such an impactful and satisfying way, while providing so many unexpected surprises throughout. Everything from the writing, directing and acting is at the show’s best. If you loved Mr. Robot from the past few seasons, I think you’ll really love how the final season turned out.

Mr. Robot (2016) Season 2 Review

Mr. Robot - Season 2

Mr Robot Season 2

Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson
Carly Chaikin as Darlene Alderson
Portia Doubleday as Angela Moss
Martin Wallström as Tyrell Wellick
Christian Slater as Mr. Robot
Michael Cristofer as Phillip Price
Stephanie Corneliussen as Joanna Wellick
Grace Gummer as Dominique “Dom” DiPierro
BD Wong as Whiterose
Creator: Sam Esmail

Series 2 of Mr Robot follows Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) as he comes to terms with his mental health issues. Along with the other members of ‘fsociety’, he must cope with the hackers’ impact on Evil Corp.

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I loved the first season of Mr. Robot, its first season quickly had me hooked, so immediately afterwards I jumped to Season 2. I liked it quite a bit, however it doesn’t quite work as well as the first season. In fact I’ve noticed that for most people, season 2 is easily the worst of the 4 seasons. It had some visible flaws, but I liked it overall.

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Early disclosure: this review will contain spoilers for season 1, so I’m now more free to talk specifics. Season 2 starts off fairly soon after the end of the previous season. Elliot is now isolated away by himself as he’s coming to terms with his mental state (i.e. Mr. Robot being an personality of himself). Then there’s plenty of other multiple plotlines happening including Angela at her new job at E Corp, the members of fsociety after the hack, the FBI investigating, and plenty more. The writing is still mostly solid and I was invested throughout, even with its slower moments. It is a darker season for the show and continues its delving into interesting ideas. It shows that there’s plenty of story left to be told in further seasons after the end of the first season. It was also quite interesting to watch how the world reacts to the big hack at the end of the last season. The first season was pretty straightforward. With season 2, it feels like there’s so much going on while not much is actually happening, if that makes any sense. I’ll dedicate Elliot’s story for a whole paragraph because there’s a lot to get into there. The rest of the plotlines are a bit all over the place, and they don’t always progress a considerable amount. Some bits are interesting like the worldbuilding, for example we get to learn more about Whiterose and The Dark Army. At the same time other aspects aren’t so great, especially when it comes to focus. For example, the show even spends so much time with Tyrell Wellick’s wife. They easily could’ve reduced the amount of screentime on that plotline, and having watched the whole show, I still don’t know why it was as prominent as it was. Even that one plotline aside, they all feel restrained and held back. Not only are there so many storylines and characters in this season, but they are mostly separated from each other, which didn’t do the season any favours. In season 1 their stories are interwoven, and they are always interacting with each other. All these storylines being separate made the season feel disjointed. Something clear is that this is a season of mystery building, with many questions floating around. What happened to Elliot’s 3-day blackout? Where is Tyrell Wellick? What is this phase 2 that’s being talked about? It really does seem determined to not give the audience answers right away, like show creator Sam Esmail deliberately held back a lot of the answers towards the end of the season.  So you’d think that Season 2 would hopefully reveal something significant by the end. Unfortunately without getting into it too much, there’s not a lot of answers you get. There’s maybe one reveal that matters, the rest of the reveals were underwhelming, predictable, we don’t care about them, or we still don’t know the answers yet. A lot of the show spent more time asking new questions than giving answers to questions that we had from the last season. It does get the vibe of stalling, especially considering how well tuned the rest of the seasons are.

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A large reason of why there’s issues with this season is how they handled Elliot’s plotline. Elliot is keeping himself isolated while he deals with his multiple personality issue with Mr. Robot, and there’s a mental battle between the two as the former is trying to get rid of the latter. Something to note is that neither of them are in this season as much as they were in the first season. Elliot and Robot are far too removed from the rest of the cast for far too long. Keeping the main characters separated from the rest of the cast for the first half of the season created a new dynamic status quo that I was happy to roll with for the first 2-3 episodes, but after that you really feel the greatly reduced pace of the narrative. This particular story arc takes place over 7 episodes, over half of the season. Now there is a twist that does explain things, but it does link into something from season 1 which is so inconsequential to the overall story. It actually feels something of a waste of time looking back at it. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad. This plotline is meant to be more of a character study for both characters. I really liked their interactions, and I enjoyed some of the interactions he made with some of the introduced supporting characters. However it just wasn’t handled the best.

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Something that hadn’t changed between the seasons of Mr. Robot was that the acting remains great as always. Rami Malek is once again excellent as Elliot Alderson, and gets plenty of time to shine. Christian Slater is also again really good as Mr. Robot, there’s a mental battle between him and Elliot and that’s really the driving force for the first half of the season (if there is one). Some characters from season 1 gets to have more to do in this season. Darlene Alderson played by Carly Chaikin (recently revealed as Elliot’s brother towards the end of the last season) is now the leader of fsociety now that Elliot isolated himself. Angela Moss played by Portia Doubleday has a more interesting role as she now finds herself working at E Corp. Two new characters who were briefly in the last season also get more presence here. One of them is Phillip Price played by Michael Cristofer, the CEO of E Corp. The other is played by BD Wong, who is Whiterose, the leader of the shadowy hacking group the Dark Army, who also happens to be China’s Minister of State Security. Both characters and performances are great and scene-stealing, and Whiterose is a particularly intriguing character. A new character to this series is Grace Gummer as Dominique DiPierro, an FBI agent investigating the E Corp hack. This plotline gives the perspective from the FBI, which is to be expected but DiPerro’s character and her performance makes it feel more than just an obligatory procedural. Gummer does a great job at making her character feel as isolated from the rest of society as Elliot, just on the other side of the law. Additionally, there’s other supporting characters who shine even with less screentime, mainly Joey Badass and Craig Robinson during Elliot’s plotline.

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Mr. Robot is still fantastic on a technical level, it’s shot incredibly well and has a very distinct style and a unique look. The score from Mac Quayle is still amazing and the sound design is effective. The editing choices continue to be great, it even goes further psychological, especially now that it’s established that Elliot is an unreliable narrator. The film really takes advantage of this greatly to result in some fantastic sequences. Speaking of unreliable narrator, the narration from Elliot to us, his imaginary friend, is here again, and once again it’s handled well.

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Mr. Robot Season 2 for sure has some issues, mainly with the writing. The attempt to slow the story down and ask more questions, whether it be to stall or to genuinely build intrigue, doesn’t quite work effectively. With that said, the acting and characters are fantastic, on a technical level it is perfect, and as someone who was hooked on the first season, I was interested to see where the story would go next. Out of the 4 seasons it’s my least favourite but it’s still really good, and no doubt if I rewatched it would probably have a better opinion of it. If you really liked the first season, you’d probably be able to get through it even if you have issues. However if you just got through the first season of the show, and you’re not hooked yet and hope that season 2 will be the point where it clicks for you, unfortunately you might have to wait till season 3 for that.

Mr. Robot Season 1 (2015) Review

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Mr Robot Season 1

Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson
Christian Slater as Mr. Robot
Portia Doubleday as Angela Moss
Carly Chaikin as Darlene
Martin Wallström as Tyrell Wellick
Michel Gill as Gideon Goddard
Creator: Sam Esmail

Elliot (Rami Malek), a cyber-security engineer suffering from anxiety, works for a corporation and hacks felons by night. Panic strikes him after Mr Robot (Christian Slater), a cryptic anarchist, recruits him to ruin his company.

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I had heard of Mr. Robot for the longest time, the show started back in 2015 and I just knew that it involved hacking. A couple of years after the show finished in 2019, I finally checked it out, and watched it all within exactly one month. I decided to wait to review the show only after watching the whole series, which turned out to be the best decision. Mr. Robot was fantastic and has now positioned itself as one of my all-time favourite TV shows. As for Season 1, it’s really great, and gets you invested in the show quickly.

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I do think it’s best going into Mr. Robot not knowing a whole lot about it, so really you could just jump into the show immediately. The pilot/first episode is among the best first episodes of a show I’ve seen. It establishes the setting, the situation, the style of the show, the tone, and most importantly the main character. It’s incredibly well written throughout, it’s engaging, the dialogue is great, and it is paced well. The storytelling was great throughout, over time presenting you with information and details that you might not understand straight away, and revealing pieces around it before you figure it out. It’s really not a show you have on in the background, it’s a show that deserves a lot of your attention and energy. It’s also very unpredictable with plenty of twists, and has moments where it gets weird (to vaguely put it). There’s a lot of great worldbuilding on display too. On paper the plot just sounds like it’s about a hacker group (named fsociety) hacking and taking a corporation down (named E Corp, also referred to as Evil Corp by the main character). While that’s part of it, it’s so much more than that. There’s a lot of complexity to it, and even moral ambiguity surprisingly. It’s not all plot focused, it does have some slower moments to add some depth to the characters, which really does elevate things a lot a lot. As I said earlier, the show does involve hacking. There are plenty of movies and shows about hacking and they seem far fetched and unrealistic. Here though it’s actually somewhat accurate to real life, at the very least in contrast to other representations of hacking in pop culture. While the hacking is more realistic, it still manages to be incredibly thrilling in some sequences. With that said, the hacking is a plot device and isn’t what makes the show. It’s not a show purely about hacking, it’s about lead character Elliot and his life, his struggles and the story that surrounds him. It’s a character driven psychological thriller with a technology theme to it. It is a very dark show and isn’t very cheerful, it doesn’t have many light moments, however at the same time it remains an entertaining show. It’s also more complex than you initially think it is at first, and it is very thought provoking. There are some revelations that make you look back at the story and characters in different ways (which will be frequent for the whole series). With that said, there are still plenty of more things that needed to be answered especially at the very end, but just so you know, the next few seasons will give all those answers to you, so stick with it.

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The acting is great all around. Rami Malek plays the lead character Elliot Alderson and this has to be the best performance that I’ve seen from him, portraying the character incredibly well. The character himself is great. Elliot also a very easy protagonist to follow and is very compelling, and we enter the world through his eyes. We can really relate to his feeling and awkward interactions. By day Elliot is a socially awkward coder working for a cybersecurity company, but night he’s a morphine addict who hacks people’s lives, taking down paedophiles and drug dealers. That first episode really captures the essence of him really well, and at the very least, it does a great job at hooking you into the show even just for his character. On a performance level too, Rami Malek is a powerhouse. Whether he’s performing rambling and emotional internal monologues or having larger dramatic moments, he’s fantastic. His range and nuance contributed to Elliot being likable. Even some of the way he delivered some lines – even when they are a little stilted – they added to the character and story. Another prominent character is Mr. Robot, the anarchist who brings Elliot into his hacker group named fsociety to take on E(vil) Corp. The character is played by Christian Slater, and he is quite a strong screen presence, bringing such an energy to the role, and is really entertaining to watch. Mr. Robot contrasts heavily from Elliot as a character, and it is compelling to watch the two of them interact on screen. Those are really the two main actors. There’s also other performances and characters from which includes Portia Doubleday as Angela Moss (Elliot’s childhood friend), Carly Chaikin as Darlene (one of the hackers at fsociety), and Martin Wallström as Tyrell Wellick (Senior Vice President at E Corp). Those performances and characters are good and interesting, but a lot of these supporting characters really get more chances to shine in the following seasons. With that said, they are written interestingly enough that you want to learn more about them. Some of the other reoccurring cast in this season are great too, including Frankie Shaw’s Shayla (Elliot’s morphine supplier), Gloria Reuben’s Krista (Elliot’s psychologist), and BD Wong’s mysterious character.

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It’s all directed great, with a very distinct style from the way its shot to the way its edited and the soundtrack fits the tone perfectly. It really is visually striking, the cinematography is comparable to what you would find in a big budget movie. While much of the colour palette is muted and dull, it fits with the lead character’s headspace, and the palette does change (even subtly) to fit the respective situations. The editing choices particularly are also some of the bests I’ve seen in a TV show, whether they be for montages, tense moments, etc. Additionally, when Elliot is in a scene, it does very well at putting you in his headspace. Not only that, but we are an active participant as well, at least when Elliot is on screen. Narration plays a big part in this show, and narration can be hit or miss in movies and shows, but it’s handled excellently here. Elliot is narrating directly to us, his imaginary friend. The show really did a great job at using music appropriately. The original score definitely fits the techno-cyberpunk thriller world that was built very well, but the show also did a great job at using music from other sources to perfectly fit their respective scenarios and situations.

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Season 1 of Mr. Robot was a great start to a fantastic series. With amazing acting, a compelling story, twists and so much more, it’s a show that you should go into it as soon as possible. Watch the first episode to have a hint of it, watch the whole first season in fact. If you think that’s great, the show goes way further and larger than that, and is well worth continuing.

The Wife (2018) Review

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language & sexual references
Cast:
Glenn Close as Joan Castleman
Annie Starke as young Joan Castleman
Jonathan Pryce as Professor Joseph Castleman
Harry Lloyd as young Joseph Castleman
Christian Slater as Nathaniel Bone
Max Irons as David Castleman
Elizabeth McGovern as Elaine Mozell
Director: Björn Runge

Joan (Glenn Close) and Joe (Jonathan Pryce) remain complements after nearly 40 years of marriage. Where Joe is casual, Joan is elegant. Where Joe is vain, Joan is self-effacing. And where Joe enjoys his very public role as the great American novelist, Joan pours her considerable intellect, grace, charm and diplomacy into the private role of a great man’s wife. As Joe is about to be awarded the Nobel Prize for his acclaimed and prolific body of work, Joan starts to think about the shared compromises, secrets and betrayals.

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I hadn’t been looking forward to watching The Wife. It seemed like yet another one of those bland awards movies that only get attention because of one performance and the plot didn’t seem interesting in the slightest. Even the title was uninteresting. The only reason I watched The Wife honestly was because of the awards attention towards Glenn Close’s performance, and it was pretty much what I thought it would be. Not bad but nothing much more than above average, with the acting being really the only good part of the whole movie.

The Wife as a story just really wasn’t all that impressive. When I say that the trailer pretty much covers the extent of where the plot goes, I really mean it. I don’t mean it in as the trailer showed too much, it gives the basic idea of the movie (as it should) but the plot doesn’t really become much more than that. There are plenty of movies about a husband taking credit for the wife’s work (see Colette and Big Eyes) but The Wife seems to just be about that basic idea and nothing more. It has nothing else to offer, there is nothing different about this story from others to make it interesting. The third act is when it is when it picks up, because that’s when Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce directly address the issue and get into conflicts about it and we really get to see their dynamic and then it becomes interesting. While the idea is teased earlier on, the only time that the two characters deal with it head on is near the end of the movie. If it even started halfway through it would’ve kept my attention longer. Instead we have to wait for like 80 minutes of them beating around the bush. Even just the writing itself wasn’t all that great. The dialogue can be pretty on the nose and cliched, and some of the things that happen can be contrived and coincidental at times, an example involving a flight attendant on a plane earlier in the movie. On top of that, the story just wasn’t all that interesting and was rather dull. Again, picks up in the third act but throughout the rest of the movie I was completely uninvested. The script wasn’t terrible but was generally lacklustre until the third act.

The one thing that makes the movie better than average is the performances but I feel like even they feel somewhat held back by both the writing and direction. Their best acting moments mostly consist of them having ‘big acting moments’ (you know what I’m meaning), not that the acting is bad, it’s just that at times it feels like there are moments allocated for each actor to go really big with their acting. I’m not even sure if I’ve seen a movie with Glenn Close in it before (aside from Guardians of the Galaxy) but she was really good here. I don’t think she’s as spectacular as some people have been making her out to be and I have seen better lead actress performances last year, but she was still quite good. To be fair to her, she also does have some subtle acting moments as it builds up to the third act, and that third act is where she goes full force with her performance and just unleashes everything she has. Jonathan Pryce was also surprisingly great as the husband, given that when it came to this movie the only positive thing I heard about was relating to Glenn Close. Pryce also deserves some praise as well for his performance. Max Irons is decent enough as their son and Christian Slater is good as a biographer/journalist who is prying into the lives of the lead characters. Annie Starke (the daughter of Glenn Close by the way) and Harry Lloyd were also good as the younger versions of the lead characters.

Usually I don’t have much to say about the direction when it comes to these types of Oscar movies, usually it was competent enough and there’s not much to say about it. This time it’s different, not because it’s spectacular, quite the opposite really. Apparently Björn Runge has directed some things before, I’ve not seen his other work but his direction of The Wife is quite average really. Even with a script which isn’t great, it still could’ve been spiced things up to make it a little more interesting. There is no style whatsoever when it comes to the direction, it’s very blandly directed and all in all is rather subpar. The only thing I could say that was done well with regards to the technical elements was that the locations were pretty good.

The Wife doesn’t have much to offer outside of the performances. The direction is really bland and the writing doesn’t offer much of interest until the third act. It’s just the acting elevating things slightly, with Glenn Close of course having the spotlight. If you want to see what all the fuss about Glenn Close’s performance for awards season, then I guess you could watch The Wife. It’s not bad or anything, just not really that good either.

Nymphomaniac: Vol. 2 (2013) Review

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Explicit material & content that may disturb.
Cast:
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Joe (ages 35–50)
Stacy Martin as young Joe (ages 15–31)
Stellan Skarsgård as Seligman
Shia LaBeouf as Jerôme Morris
Christian Slater as Joe’s father
Jamie Bell as K
Willem Dafoe as L
Mia Goth as P
Michaël Pas as Older Jerôme
Jean-Marc Barr as the Debtor Gentleman
Udo Kier as The Waiter
Director: Lars von Trier

The continuation of Joe’s (Charlotte Gainsbourg) sexually dictated life delves into the darker aspects of her adulthood, obsessions and what led to her being in Seligman’s (Stellan Skarsgard) care.

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I’m assuming that if you’re reading this review, you’ve already read my review of Lars von Trier’s divisive Nymphomaniac Volume 1. While I didn’t love the movie, it was very interesting, with some great performances and von Trier had a very unique style and vision (it was the first film of his that I saw). That was only the first half of the story however, and I heard very different reactions to the second volume. Some said that it was better than the first volume, others says that it was a significant drop in quality. I actually quite liked Nymphomaniac Volume 2, though it is (understandably) less enjoyable than the first volume, and the rather obnoxiously forcibly bleak ending really took away from both movies.

Long story short, if you didn’t like Volume 1 at all (as in was disturbed by it or found it to be absolutely horrible as a movie), Volume 2 isn’t going to be that big of a difference for you, whether you like or dislike it more. Otherwise, if there was something that you liked or were interested in with Volume 1, you’re pretty much going to need to watch the second volume. I do recommend reading my review of Volume 1 as there are some similar things between the two volumes and I don’t want to repeat myself too much. I’ll do my best to mostly talk about the new parts and differences between the two. Volume 2 is as long as Volume 1 at around 2 hours, despite this, instead of being split up into 5 chapters, it is split up into 3 chapters. It really does feel like the second part of the story, there’s not opening credits or anything like that, it goes straight into the rest of the story. There are clear differences between the two volumes and you can tell why Nymphomaniac is split at this particular point. Volume 2 is much darker, while the first volume had spots of dark comedy, the second volume has just specks of dark comedy. While the main character of Joe had many sexual experiences seemingly without any consequences in the first part of the story, without spoiling anything, let’s just say that things just go extremely bad for her in the second part. For example, at the end of Volume 1, Joe is numb from sex, which is particularly significant to her given that she’s a sex addict (or nymphomaniac as she self proclaims to be). So she has to find extreme methods of reigniting her sexuality. While Volume 1 at many points could be hard to watch, this second volume is much more so. In that it’s a less enjoyable experience, but I can’t exactly fault the movie for that. Once again it doesn’t feel like it’s necessarily done for shock value (though knowing Lars von Trier, that probably did play a part in some of the things that happen), it feels honest for the story that’s being told. There are parts that do feel more riveting than the first volume, but it is quite possible that this is because it has less chapters than the first volume or that it is darker. Despite this, enjoyment wise I preferred Volume 1 much more. The conversations between Joe and Seligman are once again interesting and one of the best parts of the Nymphomaniac movies, though once again they could be a little self indulgent (for lack of a better term to use while avoiding the term ‘pretentious’), though they don’t go to absurd levels like the first volume could be at times. Then there’s the ending which has divided a lot of people. Now I knew the ending a long time before going in and I hated the ending already. I did hear about people’s defence of the ending and I kept that in mind while watching both movies, and it still didn’t work for me after watching it. I won’t spoil what it is, but basically it involves one of the two main characters in present day (played by Gainsbourg and Skarsgard) doing something incredibly out of character. While it may have been meant to be a twist, it feels really forced. There’s nothing even small during the movie leading up to the end that hints towards it happening at all, just because people won’t expect a twist to happen doesn’t make it good. This also affects one of the best parts of the movie(s), the conversations between the two characters, instead of making you see them in a different light, it just makes them feel confused and it doesn’t really work or make sense. As a result it all just feels like a cheap way for Lars von Trier to make one of his typically depressing endings. While apparently he has many of these types of endings, I’m sure that they aren’t this lazily bleak. The ending is more than just underwhelming and disappointing, it’s infuriating and does notably detract from the overall film. I’ll just say that if the film ended with some random character we’ve never seen before appearing out of nowhere and killed both characters, it would feel less frustrating. Then again you might actually like the ending, some actually do.

The acting all around is great once again. Charlotte Gainsbourg was fantastic, this time she’s much more front and centre to what was going on. In Volume 1 she was very present throughout, but only in her scenes when she’s telling her stories. Here’s she’s actually present in the flashbacks and being present throughout most of them. She has to go through a lot, both physically and emotionally. Joe’s story in the first volume wasn’t particularly light but the second volume is especially dark. I’ve not seen much from Gainsbourg in terms of acting but from Nymphomaniac she has really shown herself to be an excellent actress. The scenes with Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgard in the present day are great as well and their conversations are really one of the more interesting parts of the Nymphomaniac story, especially how they played off each other with how different they are with regards to their outlook on life and all that. Stacy Martin is once again great as the younger Joe, despite her pretty much being the lead in Volume 1 though, in Volume 2 she’s not in the movie as much, given that in this point in Joe’s telling of the story she’s like in her mid 30s. Shia LaBeouf and some of the other actors return to their roles, once again they are really good and served their purposes well but really they are supporting players. There are mainly 3 newer actors added into the second part of Nymphomaniac. Willem Dafoe at one point is in the movie playing Joe’s boss, he doesn’t really get a lot of screentime but Dafoe brings a lot to whatever role he’s in and here it’s no exception. Jamie Bell plays a sadist who Joe comes in contact with in order to somewhat rehabilitate her sexuality. This is a role that Bell hasn’t really taken on before or since and he is suitably unnerving and violent, really great performance. Mia Goth is the other addition to the story later on, as Joe’s accomplice. This was really one of her first performances and she was really great in her role whenever she was on screen. It seemed like plenty of people were also impressed with her performance, seeing that she would go on to deliver more great performances in A Cure for Wellness, Suspiria and other movies.

Lars von Trier’s direction once again is impressive, with the cinematography being really stunning and direction-wise, a lot of impressive things being done. Regardless of how you feel about the story and all the things that happen, it’s clear watching this that he knows his way behind the camera. The sexual parts to everything is once again graphic and uncomfortable. This time there aren’t as many sex scenes, the sexual aspect of it is border more on fetishism, but again it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to titillate the audience, the sexual acts aren’t pornographic at all, they are actually more disturbing and even darker this time around. Despite some of my issues with Nymphomaniac, it didn’t feel exploitive. Volume 2 is arguably more uncomfortable in general, but that’s mainly because of the story. A weird thing I noticed that differed from the first volume is the lack of drawings, numbers and words that would sometimes appear on screen. Not that it was the glue holding everything together (the diagram of Joe parking a car certainly wasn’t the peak moment of Volume 1), it’s just something I noticed. Also to the second volume’s credit, it doesn’t make random directing decisions, like how it had one chapter with a smaller frame, and another chapter in completely black and white, it actually feels consistent throughout the movie.

Nymphomaniac Volume 2 mostly succeeds in telling the rest of the story. It is harder to watch, darker and more uncomfortable, however that seemed to work for the story. As I said and detailed earlier though, the ending really didn’t just disappoint, it really worked against and detracted a lot from the movie. So even aside from the fact that Volume 1 is more enjoyable to watch, Volume 2 ends with a horrible taste in the mouth, and not the good kind, thus making it not as good as the first part of the story. All in all, I understand why it was split into two parts, the first volume of the story was rather overwhelming and there was a lot of story to cover from what I’ve seen (haven’t seen the director’s cut). However, I think it still would’ve been possible to cut down some things from both volumes and release Nymphomaniac as one 3 hour long movie (or even 3 hours and a half). Nymphomaniac isn’t a movie I want to rewatch ever again and I don’t know if I can ever recommend it, but I guess the best thing I can say is that if my reviews of it made you the least bit interested in it, go check it out and hopefully you’ll get something out of it.

Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1 (2013) Review

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Explicit material & content that may disturb.
Cast:
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Joe (ages 35–50)
Stacy Martin as young Joe (ages 15–31)
Stellan Skarsgård as Seligman
Shia LaBeouf as Jerôme Morris
Christian Slater as Joe’s father
Uma Thurman as Mrs. H
Sophie Kennedy Clark as B
Connie Nielsen as Katherine (Joe’s mother)
Udo Kier as The Waiter
Director: Lars von Trier

A man named Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) finds a fainted wounded woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) in an alley and he brings her home. She tells him that her name is Joe and that she is nymphomaniac. Joe tells her life and sexual experiences with hundreds of men since she was a young teenager while Seligman tells about his hobbies, such as fly fishing, reading about Fibonacci numbers or listening to organ music.

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I’ve heard a lot about Lars von Trier, he’s one of the most controversial directors working today. Yet I hadn’t gotten around to watching any of his movies until now. I didn’t really know where the best place to start with him would be (given that his movies are disturbing, depressing, or both), so I just watched the movie I could easily access, Nymphomaniac. I had heard all about Nymphomaniac for a while, with some very polarised reactions to it, some loved it, others not so much.
Having watched the first half of it, while I’m not one of the people who loved it, I actually did like it quite a bit and there’s a lot of great things to it.

I want to preface this review by saying that I saw the movie on Netflix and at the beginning it said that the film I was going to watch is an abridged and ‘censored’ version. So it’s possible that the version I saw won’t be the version that you might see. Nymphomaniac Volume 1 is a slow moving arthouse movie that happens to be about sex. This movie is really conversations between Charlotte Gainsbourg telling her story to Stellan Skarsgard and we see flashbacks of that happening. It’s mainly broken up into 5 chapters (at least for the first half of the story). These conversations are really interesting, especially as Gainsbourg and Skarsgard are very different people and have different perspectives on what happened, definitely one of the highlights of the film. It was interesting to listen to their conversations. Quite often there are a lot of comparisons from objects to things that happened in Joe’s life, an example being a comparison between fly fishing and sex. I get that a lot of people found some bits of the discussions and the comparisons pretentious (and it is), and to be fair they go a little too ridiculous with it sometimes. With that said, I think a lot of these bits are intentionally ridiculous and add quite a bit of humour. Actually there are surprisingly quite a lot of effective comedic moments in the movie, which does lighten up things a bit. It really needed them, because it is a really uncomfortable and bleak movie, even when watching it by yourself (I would know). It does feel a tad repetitive in some of the things that happen but it’s not like the same things happening every time, with every chapter we learn something new about Joe. I will say that I didn’t really feel any emotion throughout this movie. It is a rather cold movie, and on the whole the most emotion I felt was uncomfortableness at certain moments. Now I was still interested in the movie despite this, but it’s not really a movie where you get emotionally invested or anything like that. Now this is a review of essentially half the story, and as of this point I haven’t watched Volume 2, so I can’t tell yet how the whole complete story works just yet.

There are a lot of actors in this movie and they do a great job in their roles. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays the lead character of Joe, we really just see her as she’s talking to Stellan Skarsgard’s character of Seligman and have a lot of conversations, both Gainsbourg and Skarsgard are great. In the flashbacks, the younger version of Joe is played by Stacy Martin, who does a fantastic job, in this volume, Martin really gets the lead in the movie. She has to do a lot of things, it’s a very challenging role and she absolutely nails it. Shia LaBeouf is also quite good in his (small) role here, though his English accent is a little hit or miss. We also have Christian Slater and Connie Nielsen as Joe’s parents, good in their limited screentime. We also get a bit of Uma Thurman in one chapter, also great. Really everyone did a good job in their roles.

I’ve only seen one movie from Lars von Trier now, but I can tell from his work on Nymphomaniac Volume 1 that he’s great at his craft. As this is a movie called Nymphomaniac, surrounding a sex addict, you can tell that there is a lot of sex shown on screen. However it actually isn’t exploitive or pornographic. It is basically as graphic as porn as you see pretty much everything, though apparently no actual sex was performed and there was a lot of body doubles, prosthetics and CGI face swapping involved. However it’s not particularly sexy, it doesn’t glamourize it at all, just portraying the sexual acts on screen with honesty to the story. It treated it much like how the movie Shame treated it (another movie about a sex addict), the sex actually has a point. As I said earlier, the version of Nymphomaniac I saw was apparently a ‘censored’ version, so I’m guessing there’s another version that’s much more graphic than this. There was some interesting editing choices made, with some scenes cutting to things like animals, and this mostly worked for me. This film would also have some visuals shown on screen, with words, numbers and shapes actually being drawn on screen during scenes (which surprised me). As much as I mostly loved Lars von Trier’s direction, there were some odd choices made that were out of place. For example, in chapter 3, the framing of the screen was much smaller compared to the rest of the movie, and I don’t really know why. Then in another chapter, it switched to black and white. Also the aforementioned visuals being shown on screen can be a little too much and trying too hard. I liked some of these moments, but we didn’t need a diagram to be drawn out showing Joe parking a car or things like that. They didn’t take the movie down a lot but it was a bit distracting.

Nymphomaniac Volume 1 is definitely not for everyone. It is a difficult to watch, slow moving arthouse movie about a sex addict. If you’re not immediately turned off by this concept and are interested in it based on my thoughts on the film, maybe you should check it out. However, it worked for me, The direction was mostly fantastic, the cast was great, and it was an effective story. With all that being said, this is only the first half of the movie, as of this moment writing this review I’ve just watched Volume 1 (and by the time I uploaded this review I would’ve watched Volume 2), so my view on part 1 could change depending on how the second part goes. It’s made me interested to watch the second half of the story, as well as von Trier’s other movies. Again though, I’ll probably need to watch Volume 2 before coming to a proper conclusion to the overall story.