2020 | unrated (NC-17 equivalent) | starring Michele Morrone, Anna Maria Sieklucka | directed by Barbara Bialowas and Tomasz Mandes | 1 hr 54 mins | In Polish and Italian with English Subtitles |
Sex rockets back to the small screen with a vengeance in 365 Days, an explicit, soft core, quote/unquote romance for the Pornhub generation. Earlier this year, Netflix unearthed the 2018 Polish Seven knockoff – and one of the unintentionally funniest things I’ve seen all year – The Plagues of Breslau. Now they’ve done it again. 365 Days is a Polish knock-off of Fifty Shades of Grey right down to the pain room, masquerade masks, toxic relationship, artificial drama, shopping porn and cliffhanger sequel-bait ending. As recently as one decade ago, it was common for different countries to make their own version of Hollywood movies. Bollywood is notorious for this. We had the famous Turkish version of Superman** and Indian versions of James Bond or Chuck Norris. Zinda, the Indian version of Oldboy, is still one of my favorite things to grace the internet. But worldwide streaming services have broken down those barriers and what was harmlessly seen as another countries version of a popular film (because who can afford a region-free DVD player?) are now sucked up into a handful of large platforms all together. These new versions are also very specific in their rip-offs.
Based on a book (of course, remember Fifty Shades started as Twilight fan fiction so we’ve made this copy so many times now it’s almost a blank page), 365 Dni is an appalling story about a high ranking, powerful figure in the Sicilian mafia named Massimo (Michele Morrone) who flat out kidnaps Laura (Anna Maria Sieklucka), the International Sales Director for Steele’s… I mean, a hotel in Warsaw. He chains her up in his mansion, takes her on shopping sprees and forces her to accompany him on business trips and masquerade parties and plans to give her a year to fall in love with him. Will she escape or will Stockholm Syndrome take hold? Or will she crack open his hardened exterior to the wounded bird underneath and fall in love with his money?
I’m not here to knock what people are into. I’m not one of these prudes that invaded message boards in the beginning of the age of internet film criticism demanding that anyone that wanted to see sex in a movie should “just go watch porn”. It has it’s place in movies about the complex and confusing dynamic of adult relationships. It can have it’s place, to titillate in the same vein a car chase can. It’s something that has been lost on a studio level as movies have infantilized into comic books. You can also make the case – as I may have – that a sex scene has no place at all in a good script because a good script is constantly moving the story forward. These are questions I look forward to debating some day in a movie more worthy of it than this. 365 Days is junk, obnoxious, dumb and overly long, replacing rich wish-fulfillment fantasies for character and story. Everyone is so vein and unlikable it’s unclear why either of these two would fall for the other and why they do anything they do. At one point Massimo brags to Laura that he can have her anytime he wants, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she’s imprisoned by him. In the first 20 minutes the movie sets up Massimo’s character by having him graphically orally assault a flight attendant. This is our hero.
One of the big knocks on the Fifty Shades films was how dry and sexless they actually where. 365 Days certainly corrects that in a way no big studio could. There is also only so far you can go on that tank of gas. Being dry and sexless was one of the things that made Fifty Shades so unintentionally funny as a work of kitsch. Jamie Dornan’s terrible wooden performance while barking out demands was hilarious. 365 Days’ biggest crime is that it isn’t even fun camp. Continuing to chronicle how once we accept certain things they they just slide down the slippery slope even further, in the same way that Fifty Shades of Grey made Twilight look like it burned with passion, 365 Days makes Fifty Shades look like a classy movie with an almost fun and flirty relationship. Christian Grey just didn’t want Anastasia to take off her top on a beach, but he didn’t chain her up in a castle for a year. This movie is so ugly and dumb it makes one yearn for the seeming naivety and innocence of a Fifty Shades sequel or a Belinda Blinked book.
The last act of this movie is probably more repulsive than the opening. Wasn’t it just barely 2 year’s ago when all of Hollywood and all of Netflix were tripping all over themselves in a post-metoo wave to elevate strong female characters in role model roles. Captain Marvel was supposedly revolutionary. 365 Days and it’s rampant streaming popularity are proof that when you let that thumb up just a little bit and leave the constant lecturing to audience appetite, they don’t constantly want to be good and see role models. Sometimes they want to see dominant men, make-over montages and trash, trash, trash. The pendulum has swung, but 365 Days is not the camp we’re looking for. It’s dumb, empty, poorly acted, nonsensically scripted, not at all erotic or exciting and just all around a rotten movie.
**Saved for the end. Roll credits.