Tag Archives: Shia LaBeouf

Pieces of a Woman (2020) Review

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Pieces of a Woman

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes, offensive language & nudity
Cast:
Vanessa Kirby as Martha Weiss
Shia LaBeouf as Sean Carson
Ellen Burstyn as Elizabeth Weiss
Molly Parker as Eva Woodward
Sarah Snook as Suzanne
Iliza Shlesinger as Anita Weiss
Benny Safdie as Chris
Jimmie Fails as Max
Director: Kornél Mundruczó

Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LaBeouf) are a Boston couple on the verge of parenthood whose lives change irrevocably when a home birth ends in unimaginable tragedy. Thus begins a yearlong odyssey for Martha, who must navigate her grief while working through fractious relationships with her husband and her domineering mother (Ellen Burstyn), along with the publicly vilified midwife, whom she must face in court. A deeply personal, searing, and ultimately transcendent story of a woman learning to live alongside her loss.

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I heard about Pieces of a Woman mainly with regards to awards hype, especially with the lead performance from Vanessa Kirby. I wasn’t really expecting much from the movie beyond that aside from some positive reactions, and that it was being released on Netflix. Pieces of a Woman is a solid enough movie. It definitely could’ve been a lot better, but there’s enough here to make it worth checking out.

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The first act is quite intense as it portraying a childbirth, and everything from the acting to the directing is outstanding in this. It’s by far the most talked about moment in the whole movie and is probably what the film would be largely known for. The movie peaks early with its 20 minute long take of childbirth, however this moment was essential to really put the audience through it and understand the depth of trauma and grief that goes on. So it was kind of inevitable that the rest of the movie wouldn’t reach those heights again, nonetheless I feel like it could’ve been a little better. The rest of the movie is about the after effects and the grief that follows that first act, it’s really a movie that you’re gonna want to watch only once, as it isn’t easy to watch. The movie has a lot of loud bombastic moments of shouting and crying, as well as monologues that not only makes the film feel overdramtised and awards baity, it feels rather hollow and doesn’t have much impact. Also, the film is very predictable, you have a good idea of where it is going, not that it’s the main issue. It’s just that the story and premise aren’t approached in a very interesting way. It could’ve explored much of the relationships between characters but it doesn’t really. The film is seemingly more of a character study centred on the lead character of Martha but it’s somewhat distant from her, so it’s in a bit of an odd spot for the narrative. I really wish the film focused more on the lead character’s individuality and really allowed her to fully explore its themes of loss and grief. For a story that is trying to be intimate, it didn’t feel intimate. Outside of Martha, there are some forgettable characterisations. I have heard some people take issue with some of the odd decisions made by the characters, but they didn’t read to me as tone-deaf or bizarre. They felt completely to real life, it’s just that the characters themselves aren’t particularly well developed or defined. Storywise it does become drawn out, and it doesn’t pick up steam until a little later in the second act. I will say that it did conclude well with the third act and the ending. I wish the middle chunk of the movie was on the same level as its beginning and ending.

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While the acting from everyone is good, this is really Vanessa Kirby’s film, and she’s outstanding in the lead role. I think that Kirby should’ve been given more moments to shine, but she nonetheless gives perhaps one of the most evocative and resonant performance of the past year. She seems to be the only character written with layers because her delivery conveys a lot of the emotions and suffering that she’s going through with a lot of nuance, where everyone else is a surface-level understanding of grief. That’s particularly impressive considering that the character is written in quite a distant way. The rest of the supporting cast are good, including Sarah Snook and Benny Safdie. Ellen Burstyn is great, she is in a somewhat one note role as Martha’s mother, but is able to deliver some powerful moments and fills the story out with her performance and definitely makes up for it.

PIECES OF A WOMAN: (L to R) Vanessa Kirby as Martha, Ellen Burstyn as Elizabeth

The movie is directed by Kornél Mundruczó and I think he did a good job. It’s a tightly directed and shot film, with vital visual elements and compositions, I liked the look of the movie overall. In fact, some aspects of the direction and the editing seem to be more effective with visual moments than some of the actual writing. The long takes are particularly great, especially for the childbirth sequence in the first act. Now looking at that whole scene, it’s pretty clear that not all of it was in one shot as there are some things that happen that would be impossible to do in one complete take. With that said, most of it looks like it was in one shot, and that in itself is impressive.

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Pieces of a Woman is a good movie with great elements but also isn’t as good as it could’ve been. The attempt to look at grief is admirable, but doesn’t explore it well enough. The subject matter and the tone already make it somewhat hard to watch but it’s also hard to be invested when the approach to it isn’t particularly engaging, especially with the writing. With that said, it’s directed well, and some impressive scenes and great acting, especially a fantastic Vanessa Kirby, whose performance alone makes Pieces of a Woman worth watching.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) Review

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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Time: 122 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Medium Level Violence
Cast:
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones
Cate Blanchett as Irina Spalko
Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood
Ray Winstone as George “Mac” McHale
John Hurt as Harold “Ox” Oxley
Jim Broadbent as Dean Charles Stanforth
Shia LaBeouf as Mutt Williams
Director: Steven Spielberg

In 1957, archaeologist and adventurer Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr. (Harrison Ford) is called back into action and becomes entangled in a Soviet plot to uncover the secret behind mysterious artifacts known as the Crystal Skulls.

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Despite the original trilogy being received very well, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull got a lot of hate when it was released, especially from audiences. I always remembered liking it across the few times I had watched it, but I hadn’t seen it all that much, and it was just under a decade since I last saw it. With my recent rewatches of the other movies, I knew I needed to get back to the fourth one, and I’m glad to say that I still like it quite a lot, despite its very present issues.

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Storywise, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull wasn’t as strong as Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Last Crusade but I was still interested in the adventure and was entertained from beginning to end. To a degree it plays things rather safe, it doesn’t do too much differently and it could’ve tried to stand out more among the other films. With that being said, it is the only Indiana Jones movie to features aliens. Some people don’t like the movie ultimately being about aliens, as you quickly find out. While I can certainly understand why plenty of people aren’t so that into that, thinking about it, I don’t really have that much of a problem with it. I do like the new setting, it’s a couple of decades later after the last movie, and so it’s during the Cold War, with Russians being the main source of conflict. With this being an Indiana Jones movie, it does have its silly moments as to be expected. Although there is the scene where Shia LaBeouf is swinging on vines with monkeys, the biggest one where Indiana Jones survives a nuclear blast by hiding in a fridge. This scene is beyond infamous, even many long time Indiana Jones fans hate on it. Honestly though, I found it absolutely hilarious and kind of enjoyed it. Considering this is the same series where Indiana Jones and two others flew off a plane in a inflatable raft onto a mountain, sliding off it and falling onto rapids without sustaining any injury, I think this isn’t that unexpected. With that said there are some parts that they could’ve toned down, as in some scenes (especially towards the end) there were certain things I would’ve preferred them not showing.

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Harrison Ford reprises his role from the last time since 1989. Some say that he wasn’t up at the level that he was in the other movies, mainly that he was too old for the role, but I thought that added to his performance quite well. At the same time, in his performance here I still saw an older Indiana Jones and not just older Harrison Ford (especially after seeing the other movies more recently). The line delivery, the comedy, the energy, all of it was here. Some people really didn’t like Shia LaBeouf in his role of Mutt Williams here, but I actually thought he was pretty good on his part. Considering what his role sounded like on paper, it could’ve been way worse. I do have a feeling that much of the dislike of the character might’ve come from the fact that it was LaBeouf playing him at that time. Karen Allen returns to reprise her role of Marion Ravenwood, and while she and Ford don’t have quite as strong of a dynamic as they did back in Raiders of the Lost Ark, they still had some great chemistry and it was still nice seeing them back on screen together. Ray Winstone and John Hurt also worked quite well in supporting roles. Cate Blanchett is the villain, and is actually probably the most memorable of the Indiana Jones villians, albeit being a bit cartoonish. However she works because of the dedicated and reliable performance from Blanchett, campy and entertaining, yet threatening enough as an antagonist.

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Steven Spielberg returns to directs this, and I still think he did a pretty good job. On a technical side it all works, it’s a great looking movie too. The action is pretty good on the whole, with some entertaining sequences that aren’t quite as memorable as the action in the rest of the series. There was a fight scene with Indiana Jones and a Russian later on which was sort of weak, but most of it is fine. The use of CGI has been criticised quite a lot, honestly most of it isn’t so bad, the biggest problem is the overuse of it (you can really feel George Lucas’s hand on that part). Even a gopher is created using CGI early in the movie for some random reason. Some of the action scenes do have this weird CGI feel to it, as if some parts of the background had digital effects thrown in for some reason. The third act without spoiling anything has some CGI which doesn’t look the best and in fact looks very goofy. I do agree that they should’ve had more practical effects, generally the use of CGI was unnecessary. With that said, when it came to the practical effects and production design it was all handled very well. The score by John Williams is good, there aren’t many distinct or memorable themes compared with the other movies, but the score as it is was worked. It’s always satisfying hearing these iconic themes in a movie again.

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As a return to the series almost 2 decades after the last film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is just a little bit disappointing. Nonetheless, on its own, I can’t deny that enjoyed it a lot. It has plenty of silly moments, it used a lot of CGI unnecessarily, and did play things a bit safe. However it was entertaining from beginning to end, the cast was great, and I enjoyed being on the adventure. I’m glad that it exists and I have problem placing it alongside the original Indiana Jones trilogy.

Transformers (2007) Review

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Transformers

Time: 143 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains medium level violence
Cast:
Shia LaBeouf as Sam Witwicky
Tyrese Gibson as Sgt. Robert Epps
Josh Duhamel as Capt. William Lennox
Anthony Anderson as Glen Whitmann
Megan Fox as Mikaela Banes
Rachael Taylor as Maggie Madsen
John Turturro as Agt. Seymour Simmons
Jon Voight as John Keller
Director: Michael Bay

The fate of humanity is at stake when two races of robots, the good Autobots and the villainous Decepticons, bring their war to Earth. The robots have the ability to change into different mechanical objects as they seek the key to ultimate power. Only a human youth, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) can save the world from total destruction.

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It’s been ages since I’ve seen the Transformers movies, I’ve only watched up to the third movie in addition to watching Bumblebee back in 2018. I remember enjoying Bay’s Transformers movies when I was younger, but I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about them now. They have a reputation of being mindless large scale action flicks, however the first movie is still somewhat well received, and so I decided to check it out again. It was pretty much what I expected it to be, overlong and full of flaws, but nonetheless pretty entertaining.

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The writing of the first Transformers movies is a very mixed bag. The plot itself is passable, but the actual script has its issues. It takes a while for the movie to really pick up with the Transformers, it starts with Shia LaBeouf and him eventually realising that he has a car that’s not just a car. It doesn’t really do much to keep you genuinely interested. Even when Shia meets up with Optimus Prime it doesn’t really grab your interest. It certainly doesn’t help that Transformers is a very long movie at 2 hours and 20 minutes long. It’s really the third act where it excels, as Bay does what Bay does best with all the action. However the movie shouldn’t need to be just an action filled one to be good. For such a straight forward plot, there is just too much going on in the movie. The comedy is also very hit or miss but it at least works better than in the later movies (from what I remember). At least the racial stereotypes are kept to a minimum of 1 in this movie. I’ll say this much, if some of the plot elements in this movie bothers you, definitely don’t check out the other Bay Transformers movies.

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The human characters are widely regarded as the worst aspect of these movies. While there are bits about the actual Transformers that don’t work well, the movies would’ve benefited with them being the focus instead. I know that Shia LaBeouf gets a bad rap in these 3 movies but he’s actually alright in this movie at least. Despite how you many feel about his performances in his 3 film appearances, he’s definitely putting everything he can into his role. Megan Fox is also given a bad rap in her Transformers appearances but she isn’t that bad, she’s really not given much to work with, so it’s not really on her either. The romance that LaBeouf and Fox feels really forced and no matter how hard the two of them try, you just don’t buy it. Some of the random comedic side characters don’t really have much point, most of them are meant for comedy. The parents of Shia’s character for one are among the more annoying. John Turturro is also in this movie and is alright. He’s perfectly fine in the movie but I really have no idea why Jon Voight is in this movie, they probably could’ve cast anyone in the role.

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You can really feel that Michael Bay directed this movie, for better or for worse. The cinematography has a saturated look to it, there are many dramatic scenes of military giving some really important dialogue, slow motion shots of the American flag and helicopters flying, it’s all here. The action of this movie is generally good, the CGI effects do look a little iffy now, but given the movie is over a decade old, you can cut it some slack. Back in 2007, we hadn’t really seen anything like this before, with a bunch of action involving giant robots. Yes, a lot of the action is over the top, but it’s not necessarily overwhelming.

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Yes, Transformers is a silly action movie, but there’s a lot of fun to be had with it. Even though I’m not a fan of the Transformers, I feel like they could be better than just an explosion filled action movie. Still, I had some enjoyment with it. Even if many of Bay’s more annoying clichés and style aspects make their appearance here, it is not as bad as it is in his other movies. If you haven’t seen any of the Transformers movies, it’s at least worth checking out the first one.

Lawless (2012) Review

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Lawless

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] contains violence
Cast:
Shia LaBeouf as Jack Bondurant
Tom Hardy as Forrest Bondurant
Jessica Chastain as Maggie Beauford
Gary Oldman as Floyd Banner
Jason Clarke as Howard Bondurant
Guy Pearce as Special Deputy Charley Rakes
Mia Wasikowska as Bertha Minnix
Dane DeHaan as Cricket Pate
Director: John Hillcoat

In 1931, the Bondurant brothers of Franklin County, Va., run a multipurpose backwoods establishment that hides their true business, bootlegging. Middle brother Forrest (Tom Hardy) is the brain of the operation; older Howard (Jason Clarke) is the brawn, and younger Jack (Shia LaBeouf), the lookout. Though the local police have taken bribes and left the brothers alone, a violent war erupts when a sadistic lawman (Guy Pearce) from Chicago arrives and tries to shut down the Bondurants’ operation.

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I remember watching Lawless a long time ago, and although I didn’t remember it being particularly great, I remember thinking it was at least pretty good. Since I was watching/re-watching other Tom Hardy movies, I thought I’d give this one another go, and my opinion of it is around the same. There’s not much that’s particularly wrong with the movie, in fact there’s a lot of good things about it, from the direction to the cast. I’m just not quite sure that I can call it great, but I still think that it is pretty good.

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Lawless isn’t a fast paced thriller by any means, it’s a slow burn gritty drama, and I personally liked it for that. There are certainly signs of greatness, it’s just that there’s just something missing from it. The story is actually rather straightforward and wasn’t anything special for a crime drama. I think it felt just a little too conventional, accessible and neatly packaged. They could’ve done a little more with the story and gone too some more interesting places, Lawless doesn’t really do anything that we haven’t seen done many times before and done better. With that being said, for what it was I was quite entertained for its 2 hour runtime, but it could’ve been a little better.

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The cast all around great and are among the best parts of Lawless, although some of the characters could’ve used some more development. This is mainly Shia LaBeouf’s movie, and he’s quite good in his role as the younger brother who isn’t quite as experienced as his older brothers. Tom Hardy is great in everything he’s in, and his performance in Lawless as the leader of the Bondurant brothers is no exception. He doesn’t say a lot (you just hear him grunting most of the time), but he has a lot of screen presence nonetheless, and was effective whenever he’s on screen. This is also probably one of the best performances I’ve seen from Jason Clarke as the oldest of the brothers. Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska provide some good performances, elevating their rather underdeveloped and uninteresting roles with their acting. Gary Oldman is indeed in this movie as a notable gangster, but really they could’ve gotten any actor in the role, he’s only in a few scenes. Don’t get me wrong, Oldman owns every scene he has in the movie, but he takes up such a small portion of the film and wasn’t that central to the plot that it kind of felt like overkill having an actor of his calibre for the role. One of the performances that stood out the most from this movie was that of Guy Pearce as the villain of the film. He’s effectively creepy, slimy and unnerving in this role as a Special Deputy Marshall brought in to go after bootleggers, and especially the main characters of the story. There’s not a whole lot to the character, but Pearce from his appearance to his performance makes Charley Rakes an easy character to hate. It’s quite an over the top and almost cartoonish character and performance but it kind of works for this movie.

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Lawless was really well directed by John Hillcoat. It’s a great looking movie, and Hillcoat certainly got the period setting right at least on a technical level, with the locations, the costumes and production design. Also, when it comes to the violence (even though there isn’t a massive amount of it), it’s brutal and hard hitting.

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Lawless unfortunately doesn’t quite reach the levels of greatness that it’s clearly aspiring to reach, but it’s a solid movie nonetheless. It was directed exceptionally well, and has a relatively decent story that at least kept me entertained for the runtime. Top that off with a great cast, and Lawless is a movie that’s worth a watch if you like those actors or even just decent crime dramas.

Honey Boy (2019) Review

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Honey Boy

Time: 93 Minutes
Cast:
Shia LaBeouf as James Lort
Lucas Hedges as Otis Lort (age 22)
Noah Jupe as Otis Lort (age 12)
FKA Twigs as Shy Girl
Director: Alma Har’el

When 12-year-old Otis (Noah Jupe) begins to find success as a television star, his abusive, alcoholic father (Shia LaBeouf) returns and takes over as his guardian, and their contentious relationship is followed over a decade.

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For a while I heard about a movie where Shia LaBeouf was writing a movie about himself and that he’d be playing his own father. It seemed like such an odd idea, but I was actually rather curious to see what that’d be like. I managed to get to see it, and it was really great, and lived up to all the acclaim that it has been deservedly receiving.

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This movie takes place through two storylines, one in 2005 with adult Otis (Otis being the representative of Shia LaBeouf) in rehab, and the other with young Otis in 1995 and his relationship with his father. That storytelling worked quite well for the movie overall. Honey Boy somehow works even better knowing that this script was originally written by Shia LaBeouf as a form of therapy while in rehab, it’s an incredibly personal story and you really feel that throughout, even without knowing the context about the movie. There is such an immense level of vulnerability and tenderness in this writing, and LaBeouf really wrote something incredible here. The movie can be hard to watch at points, mainly some of the scenes between Otis and his father, some scenes particularly feel painfully real, and so much of it comes from the screenplay. However you are locked in from beginning to end, and the ending itself is excellent and cathartic. Honey Boy is about an hour and 30 minutes long, and that’s a good thing and a bad thing. While it gets its everything across and to the point, it really could’ve used at least 15 more minutes of screentime to flesh out certain parts of the story. The 2005 storyline particularly needed some more development, it felt noticeably weaker compared to the 1995 one. That’s really my only problem with the movie.

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One of the highlights of the movie is the great cast. Noah Jupe plays Otis at age 12, and Lucas Hedges plays him at age 22, and both of them are very good in their role. Jupe is particularly fantastic, and with this performance solidifies himself as one of the best young actors working today. There’s also FKA Twigs who’s pretty good in a supporting role. However much of the acclaim has been surrounding Shia LaBeouf’s performance, and for very good reason, he’s absolutely fantastic here. He’s given great performances before, but he’s somehow on a whole other level here. LaBeouf plays his own abusive father, who in this movie is called James, and his performance is truly transformative here. It’s even more impressive given that he’s playing the primary source of his pain and trauma in his childhood. Jupe and him share such painfully believable on screen chemistry.

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This is the feature film debut from director Alma Har’el, and her work here is fantastic, and this movie definitely shows that she’s a talented filmmaker to really pay attention to. Everything on a technical level is top notch, with the cinematography being particularly stunning. The tone of the movie goes between being wonderfully dreamlike and startlingly real, and that was all handled very well.

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Honey Boy is an emotionally raw, heartfelt and personal movie, so beautifully made. The script is honest, therapeutic and well written, Har’el’s direction is great, and the acting is fantastic, particularly from Noah Jupe and Shia LaBeouf. It really needed to be longer and have more time to flesh things out in its plot, and that would’ve taken the movie to a whole new level, but otherwise it’s a truly great film and one of the best from 2019. Definitely check it out whenever you can get the chance to see it.

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.