Lead Actors: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård, Stacy Martin
Producer: Jessica Ask
Plot Synopsis: A man trapped in his own foggy musings, finds a woman injured and catching hypothermia in the streets near his home.
He picks her up and takes her into his home, and nurses her back to health. He asks her what got her into this predicament, and she insists that she's a bad person.
Unimpressed, Skarsgard's Seligman delves further into Gainsbourg's Joe's past for some inkling as to what happened to her, and quite possibly for some company. What he finds is that Joe has a cold cut case of Nymphomania.
Who Would Like it and Why
Those who are attracted to good writing. Never boring, Von Triers starts this escapade off with a rousing number by none other than kinky German metal band Romstein - heavy metal guitars blazing.
This perhaps sets the tone for a bumpy ride, as we go back and revisit Joe's life and attempt to fully comprehend full-fledged nymphomania from a nearly clinical standpoint.
The best writing comes out in the dialogue between the docile but highly intellectual Seligman, and the dauntless and catty Joe. Seligman, during many points of their conversation compares Joe's sexual forays to the breeding rituals of northern American trout.
These segments are quite endearing and funny. Seligman's scientific musings attempt to add pacing, ritual and meaning to Joe's raucous, wild sexual world.
Also, if you are a fan of good, surprising performances, definitely key into this movie. Trouble-making actor Shia LaBeouf dazzles in his portrayal of a young, moped-fixing English lad who steals the virginity from a younger Joe. Then we meet him later in life when Joe, quite accidentally, stumbles into a company that LaBeouf 's Jerome runs to apply for a job!
Jerome, we find out, turns out to be the only man that Joe ever truly loves throughout all her legendary sexcapades.
The chemistry between LaBeouf and Stacy Martin, who seductively plays the young Joe, is great. During one scene in particular Joe, who is Jerome's assistant and secretary, asks to park a car that Jerome cannot seem to manage to park into a tight spot on the side of a busy street in what I think is London.
Jerome reluctantly lets her, and Joe parks it flawlessly. This infuriates the already prideful Jerome. Joe smiles lightly. This is a typical moment in their budding, innocent relationship and is refreshing amid all of Joe's physical forays that mean nothing emotionally.
Also, in a rousing performance worthy of Oscar nomination is yet another American playing an Englishman. This time it's Christian Slater, who plays Joe's father and a physician who later dies a painful and tragically early death from dementia.
Slater is a wonderfully calming influence for the very intense and mixed up Joe. One of my favorite scenes is when we first meet Slater as the father and he is walking a young Joe into the woods. Given Joe's disposition, it would be easy to assume that her father molested her.
Not so! Rather what follows is an incredibly tender scene wherein Joe's father teaches her about the trees in the forest, and the shapes of their leaves.
Most notably, he points out the leave of the ash tree and tells the fable behind why the ash tree is shaped and colored the way that it is. This observing of the wonderful trees in English forests becomes the foundation of their relationship up until Joe's father's death. Trees and leaves, and in particular a book that she and her father made, become one of the few sources of solace in Joe's turbulent life.
This entire relationship, again, is played out with Oscar-level precision and softness with Christian Slater and Stacy Martin.
Martin, who is in the bulk of this first movie, does a great job portraying the conflicted Joe. She manages to be incredibly lovely and sultry and pretty during sex and seduction scenes, but she is also incredibly compassionate towards her father and helpless against the love she has for Jerome. Martin gets an A+.
Then comes an amazingly rousing and comedic scene from none other than blonde bombshell Uma Thurman. Yet another American actor stealing a role back from the English who seem to be taking a lot of work from Americans lately in film and television.
Thurman plays a wife who has been cuckolded by the frisky Joe, who in her early 20s sometimes slept with eight different men . . . wait for it . . . in one night! Thurman's Mrs. H follows her husband back to Joe's bachelorette pad (if ever there was one) where Joe slept with Mrs. H's husband.
This is after Mrs. H's husband has announced that he is leaving his family for Joe. Mrs. H. takes her three kids to Joe's apartment to confront the two lovers.
Joe is aloof as she is awaiting another conquest. But Uma makes a huge display out of humiliating her husband and shaming him, and does nothing short of sitting the kids down in the bed where the infidelity happened. She then leaves, with the guilting power of a jewish mother, gasping with grief as she goes down the stairs.
I have seen Uma Thurman in at least fifteen movies, and she has never been outrightly funny to me. But in this ten minute scene, she dominated with comic sensibilities. Kudos to Von Triers for casting this statuesque American beauty as the cuckolded wife and mother of three. It was wildly entertaining.
Who Might not Like it and Why
Some might be afraid of the graphic sex scenes, which there are quite a few. Some of them involve a very naked Shia LaBeouf who I never have and never will see as a sex symbol! I remember LaBeouf as a teenager from the movie Holes. I feel like I have seen him grow up, but I never, ever felt the need to see him naked in a love scene, ever! His talents, I always thought, were from his quick wit and grasp of dialogue, not his grasping of the female body . . . yet I digress. . .
Von Triers, the Danish filmmaker who makes movies with the same aggression that the Denmark soccer team played soccer in the World Cup earlier this summer, is not afraid of showing how clumsy and ugly the male genitalia can be in all of it's different forms. He treats us to several interludes of Stacy Martin with her different conquests.
What I found bizarre is that Joe, in her thirst, wasn't very picky.
Many of her men were at best ugly. They all had faults like flabby or jaundiced skin. I was not sure why a woman of her beauty wouldn't have gone for more good-looking young lads. Come to think of it, LaBeouf . . . in the buff . . . might have been her best conquest. Now that's sad!
Ultimately, though, I think Von Triers looks at Nymphomania as a clinical condition and not some girl being a "slut" or "greedy". He shows sympathy for Joe throughout the movie.
It should be stated, too, that for Von Triers to direct a movie about this particular condition, without any sex scenes, would be idiotically prude.
Alas, Von Triers makes his points about the sex in Nymphoamina. But where his directorial brush does its best work in this movie (which by the way is the first of two) is by showing how the relationships of the protagonist made her a nymphomaniac and how her nymphomania affected others around her.
Kudos to Von Triers though for finding humor and sadness in the story of Joe and for bringing us these heart warming and tender performances.
Again, LaBeouf s advances towards Martin, and then his punishing her for not putting out, and her falling in love with his character Jerome, are all adorable. Again, Slate is on fire during every moment he is on camera. And Seligman's witticisms and intellectualizations of Joe's sexual appetite and self destructive behavior are all delicious.;
Every Von Triers movie I have seen has found humor and has had great story telling. This is no exception.
Two Mike and Ikes.