With raw shock and a riveting Uma Thurman absent this time, Nymphomaniac: Volume II is a metaphoric limp dick. As in Volume I, filmmaker Lars Von Trier keeps the same themes at play about female sexual power and male attempts to tame and abuse it. But repetition dulls the edge of insights that are meant to be, um, penetrating. Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg, a true fascinator) is still telling her tales of wonder and woe to Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård), the older man who gives her shelter and compares her erotic adventures to, um, fly-fishing.
Ever since she tried for a socalled normal life with Jerôme (Shia LaBeouf) and their son Marcel, Joe seems to have lost the ability to achieve orgasm. She tries a three-way with two African immigrants. Nothing. She enrolls in an S&M class run by K (an effectively creepy Jamie Bell), who spanks her ass sore. Still nothing. On it goes, with everyone, including Willem Dafoe as a dangerous employer of Joe’s, spouting Von Trier’s bizarre theories. The boiling point is reached when simpatico Seligman decides he wants to do the nasty with Joe.
What’s a girl to do? Screw that. What’s a viewer to do? You can watch Volume I (three stars) and Volume II (two stars) on video-on-demand and decide for yourself if the complete Nymphomaniac averages out to serve more than a prurient interest. To my mind, it does. For all the film’s lapses, uneven acting and dramatic tailspins, Von Trier’s bug-fuck brilliance will take you, um, over the hump.