LOL. So in a twist so unexpected they’ll hear you gasp in Warsaw, the second installment of Barbara Białowas and Tomasz Mandes’ adaptation of Blanka Lipińska’s “365 Days” trilogy drops today on Netflix, and it’s piping hot trash. Moreover, largely absent the first film’s outright offensive rape apologism — “Baby Girl” Laura (Anna-Maria Sieklucka) even refers to her erstwhile kidnapping as “sick” at one point, marking an empowerment arc as skimpy as her underwear — this time out there’s even less of what in screenwriting terminology is called a “reason” for the “story.”
Without the flimsy, regressive “Beauty and the Beast with Two Backs” structure of the 2020 megahit (still the most successful movie ever in terms of number of days spent at No. 1 on Netflix worldwide), Lipińska and co-screenwriters Mandes and Mojca Tirš, in need of something to fill the slivers of time between soft-focus shagging sessions, go back to the classics. Which in the “365 Days” universe does not mean Aeschylus, but “As The World Turns.” Or “General Hospital.” Or “All My Children.” Or basically any soap opera that aired long enough to resort to the most eyeroll-inducing of plot contrivances, which spoiler sensitivity mandates must not be revealed here, but, yes, it’s that one. You know the one.
So wait, can this mean that Laura survived the last film’s ending, a cliffhanger so uninspired it was set on a literal cliff? Reader, she did! The sequel opens with Laura on her wedding day receiving a visit from her Sicilian mafioso fiancé Massimo (Michele Morrone, the human incarnation of the smoldering ruins of Rome circa AD 64) before their nuptials. “You shouldn’t be here,” is the first line she speaks (in fairness she can rarely get a word in between the wall-to-wall rock balladeering of the soundtrack) as she coyly turns away from the one of approximately 26 featured Mediterranean horizons. But unsolicited though Massimo’s arrival may be, her second line — “I don’t have panties” — suggests it’s hardly unexpected. Their subsequent sun-flared lovemaking confirms that while Episode One’s attempt on her life may have caused Laura to lose the pregnancy she’d never told Massimo about, it has not otherwise marred her rockin’ bod, nor even mildly inhibited her flexibility.
Enter Laura’s party-girl BFF Olga (Magdalena Lamparska), shrieking about bad luck and shooing Massimo away, just in time for Laura to redo her makeup, briefly don some knickers and slo-mo up the aisle to “Ave Maria.” Then the “November Rain”-video vibe gives way to a sexed-up Sandals resort commercial as the honeymoon passes in a blur of light bondage, pool sex and a truly hilarious game of erotic golf. They ride ponies on the beach at sunset. Laura goes brunette again. And then it’s back to the grind, as the newlyweds encounter such relatable newlywed issues as being bored while one’s spouse plots a rival family’s downfall and being distracted by the bulging tool belt of a scaldingly hot gardener (Simone Susinna, fair play to the casting agents for finding the only actor on earth who could make Morrone look merely quite handsome by comparison).
The gardener — OR IS HE? — is called Nacho, appropriately for such a tasty snack, and shows up just in time to be a tattooed deltoid to cry on for Laura, who is becoming a bit frustrated with being the kept woman of a sexually aggressive but emotionally repressed gangster who only deals in groin-based intimacy. It’s hardly surprising the couple have a communication problem, given that Polish-speaking Laura and Italian-speaking Massimo use ESL-weekend-course-level English as their love language, and both have clearly been too busy humping to keep up with Duolingo. Exclamations like “Get me out from here!” “How do I look like?” along with Massimo’s often indecipherable cadences and Laura’s mangled pronunciations of words like “guaranteed” suggest they’d be a lot better off if only their relationship, like their movie, came with closed-caption subtitling.
Then Laura discovers hubs being groinally intimate with his ex-girlfriend Anna (Natasza Urbanska) at a party. Flinging her phone into the sea, Laura, never one to engineer her own escapes, husks “take me away from here” to Nacho. They abscond to another paradise island and another paradise villa, differentiated from Massimo’s mainly because the furnishings are largely wicker. They have sex — or do they? Is it perhaps all a dream? The eternal gauziness of DP Bartek Cielica’s ’90s music-video cinematography, set to the omnipresent off-brand rock-pop contributions from incredibly overworked composers Patryk Komór and Dominic Buczkowski-Woytaszek, make it very hard to tell Laura’s softcore fantasies from Laura’s softcore reality.
But then, that’s the point here. The sex scenes are varied, at least in terms of location — honestly, you’ll never look at a putting green the same way. There’s a Christmas tryst in which Laura’s gift to Massimo is herself, trussed up in leather wristband restraints with “fuck me” somewhat redundantly emblazoned on them in gold, lying on a rumpled sheet alongside a cornucopia of sex toys — even one that is none-too-subtly inserted from a southerly direction right as the singer wails, “I wanna do bad things to you.”
But whatever marginally transgressive sex acts may be implied, it’s the black-and-gold vibrators and the bedsheets and Laura’s complicated lingerie that are really the focus of this tiresomely basic erotic fantasia: Like the “Fifty Shades of Grey” franchise that inspired this flagrant rip-off, the “365 Days” films are less about the sex than they are about the stuff. The suits and sunglasses, villas and jetskis, shopping montages and stripper heels, Lamborghinis and Corvettes. Long before “This Day” closes on its inevitable cliffhanger — this time genuinely one of the funniest slow-motion shootouts ever — it’s devolved into the lifestyle catalogue it was always destined to be, once the ick of its initial premise wore thin. Which is good news for franchise stakeholders eyeing future installments up to and beyond Lipinska’s third book, because dunderheaded rape-romance plots might get you to 365 days, but stuff? Stuff is forever.
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