Nymphomaniac: Vol. II is, mercifully, not as bad as Vol. I, but it has its share of problems. The largest remains its rampant misogyny disguising itself as empowerment. Another is that Charlotte Gainsbourg, who plays Joe as an adult, and Stacy Martin, as young Joe, don’t seem to be playing the same person.
This time around, Joe is still recovering and telling Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) her story. We learn she and Jerôme (Shia LaBeouf) had a kid; Joe started working for a loan shark (or the Mafia; it’s hazy); and she started seeing K (Jamie Bell, leaps and bounds from Billy Elliot), whom she paid to beat her. There are more coincidences that von Trier lazily explains away and a defense of the word “Negro” (which Joe uses) that could double as a defense of von Trier’s “I’m a Nazi” comment at Cannes in 2011.
In the final 10
minutes, Seligman attempts to analyze Joe’s actions—if she were a man, no one
would find her lifestyle unusual or bizarre. But really, it’s a weak attempt to
explain away the delight von Trier takes in brutalizing his female characters
and the women who play them. Nymphomaniac: Vol. II is boring,
predictable—you’ll see the ending coming a mile away—and wretched. What a waste
of time and energy.
Directed by Lars von Trier
With Charlotte Gainsbourg, Shia LaBeouf and Stellan Skarsgård