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Overall Rating

Awesome: 36.84%
Worth A Look42.11%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 10.53%
Total Crap: 10.53%

1 review, 13 user ratings

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Diary of a Nymphomaniac
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by Jay Seaver

"Romance just gets in the way of good sex."
4 stars

"Diary of a Nymphomaniac" is a bit of an anti-romance. In most movies, the main character is led along the path which shows that sex without True Love is ultimately empty, whereas in this one, pretty much every bit of misery that comes the way of Belén Fabra's Valére comes from trying to make it into something more than something she enjoys on its own.

Valére is upfront about the fact that she enjoys sex more than anything else, and has since her first time at the age of fifteen. Twenty-eight now, she exhausts frequent partner Alex (David Vert), and eagerly anticipates the occasional visit to Barcelona from Hassan (Pedro Gutiérrez), who is on her wavelength about their trysts being about nothing but mutual pleasure. A search for a new job leads her to Jaime (Leonardo Sbaraglia), a handsome, somewhat older gentleman who inspires love as well as lust. Will this bring her a new level of satisfaction?

Well, no. Jaime eventually shows himself to be far from the ideal mate, and at times this seems to be a bit of a cheat; if the movie is supposed to be about Valére and her attitudes toward sex, should so much of it be driven by some supporting character's personality defect. In hindsight, yes, it should; Valére, for all her knowledge of physical intimacy, has no idea of how to deal with a broken heart, and her reaction to having her heart broken is a believable way to set up the movie's final third. It's still pretty ham-fisted; it requires the audience to accept very little explanation for why Jaime is now a jerk and Valére is looking for work again and like it. It feels awkward at the time and maybe even more so afterward.

Of course, complaining about a clunky plot is arguably missing the point, much the way it can be when watching an action movie or slapstick comedy. That bit of awkwardness gets Valére to a place where she can explore sex from another perspective, and the audience can watch. It's not entirely about advancing the story - although the way that director Christian Molina shoots the movie's various love scenes does impart some information about their emotional purposes - but just allowing the audience to enjoy the visual of the physical act. Most of the cast (especially including Fabra) is attractive and not particularly shy, and Molina shoots things in a way that doesn't stick organs in the audience's collective face while not calling attention to how much is actually being shown versus obscured. It's perhaps not as titillating as it could be, but it does do a fine job of being arousing while also placing us in Valére's head, showing just how sex is something a bit beyond pleasure with her.

He and screenwriter Cuca Canals navigate the challenge of getting us to just enjoy the onscreen sex for what it is along with Valére, while balancing a little character growth with the erotica. It does fit into certain stereotypes of the erotica genre, from the soft music underscoring the sex scenes to the occasional arty pretentiousness - Valére has a dreamlike conversation with a younger (?) self and tends to be eating apples at significant moments in her development, for instance, and there are scenes when the cinematography calls attention to itself, begging the audience to find significance in how Molina places characters at opposite ends of a long table and then cuts back and forth like a so-called fullscreen version of a widescreen movie.

The cast is mostly a notch above that sort of showiness, but not always. Belén Fabra has a knack for communicating many permutations of ecstacy and joy, but isn't quite so fine when called upon to cry. Similarly, Sbaraglia seems to give a much more nuanced performance when Jaime is charming than when he is beastly. There are plenty of good supporting characters, though - Pedro Gutiérrez has relatively little screen time as Hassan, for instance, but he's pretty darn magnetic during those scenes. Llum Barrera is reliable as Valére's best friend, while Geraldine Chaplin classes up the joint as Valére's aged French grandmother. It's a bummer to learn Xavi Corominas's character is gay, as he's got such nice chemistry with Fabra, and while Ángela Molina and Judith Diakhate play things somewhat broadly as a madam and prostitute Valére encounters later in the movie, it's an effective theatricality.

I must admit, I didn't think that much of "Diary" as I watched it. Erotica is not a genre I've had a lot of experience with outside of the occasional Ken Russell film, so I initially found myself applying the "sex bad/romance good!" standard and giggling as it intersected with art-porn stereotypes. And while I still think it hangs around those stereotypes enough to be somewhat hurt by them, I did find the film improving in my mind as I reflected on it.

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originally posted: 06/17/09 13:31:02
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User Comments

11/01/14 sex sells Sexploitatio movie no serious actress would even consider this kind of role 1 stars
9/18/14 sachin it is really super, dream movie, i am friend of heroine also music 5 stars
8/02/14 babymilo totally intriguing.. thought it well done.. even if some of plot less plausible 5 stars
4/26/14 ElisabethK Wow finally! a spot on film about a woman who loves sex 5 stars
4/19/13 lilwashu87 Erotica with a serious dose of esoteric art theory! 5 stars
8/09/12 Daisy Fabra as Valerie was wonderful. Worth 5 stars for her! 5 stars
4/13/11 Jaybird It starts with some creditablity & ends with shlock 2 stars
11/21/10 Lilypad very jumpy, erotic and occassionally depressing, memorable though 4 stars
9/01/10 old dude No story, total bore 1 stars
4/09/10 HK Very thought provoking 4 stars
2/15/10 Ann a must-see Film of 2010 5 stars
12/15/09 dan pure gaynesssszzzzz!!! 2 stars
8/10/09 felecia robinson freedom and female sexuality is well examined. thi is not a film about erotica 5 stars
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